Pet sterilization to get look

A black cat fidgets inside a portable cage.

The owner then sets her pet on top of an examination table.

Even though Apollo doesn't know it, the fix is in.

Megan Kenemore adopted her pet from a veterinary clinic. She also took in three unwanted kittens that she believes would have otherwise become feral.

Given her experience, she supports mandatory neutering of cats and dogs.

"Absolutely," the Las Vegas woman says at the Heaven Can Wait Animal Society earlier this week. "There are too many running around."

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani is proposing a code aimed at fixing the problem that Kenemore described. It would require pet owners to sterilize their animals.

The proposal will be introduced to the County Commission on Tuesday but not discussed publicly until the first meeting in January.

The effort also would reduce the number of euthanized strays, estimated at 30,000 last year.

Unfettered breeding has led to as many as 500,000 feral cats roaming the Las Vegas Valley.

"We're all pretty much resolved to the fact that we can't kill ourselves out of the problem," Giunchigliani said.

Owners who fail to comply could be charged with a misdemeanor. They could be fined a maximum of $1,000 and jailed up to six months.

They also would forfeit their illegal kittens and puppies.

The code would put the county in line with a Las Vegas rule that will go into effect in April and a North Las Vegas rule that passed last year.

It would apply to cats older than 4 months and dogs older than 6 months. An animal that is extremely old or sick would be exempt if a veterinarian confirms the malady.

People who want litters would be required to get a breeder's permit that costs $25.

The proposed code is aimed at irresponsible pet owners who breed litter after litter without caring for the offspring, said Joe Boteilho, who heads the county's animal control.

Boteilho said his team wouldn't comb neighborhoods hunting for scofflaws but would take a more reactive approach.

If they have an animal nuisance complaint they'll check whether the pet has been sterilized, he said. People who are careless with their pets in one regard tend to be irresponsible in another, he said.

North Las Vegas' animal control chief said it's tough to gauge how many people obey that city's new law.

"It's kind of like the seat-belt law. How do you know whether you've achieved 100 percent compliance?" said Al Noyola, a city police administrator who oversees animal control.

But a survey of animal clinics in the northern valley showed that they sterilized 50 percent more pets since the law went into effect, Noyola said. Plus, a few clinics are about to open that will offer just sterilization and shots.

"Anecdotally, it's having an effect," Noyola said.

Critics have questioned whether spay-and-neuter codes infringe on property rights. Supporters counter that it's no different from rules that require homeowners to maintain their yards.

Some animal activists contend that these laws cause animal control costs to skyrocket and push impoverished people to euthanize their pets because they can't afford to sterilize them, said Harold Vosko, Heaven Can Wait's co-founder.

But when he researched the cities where these side effects were said to occur, Vosko said he found no proof to back up the claims.

Compulsory sterilization will at least ease a rampant problem, he said, noting that the 17,000 feral cats his group has sterilized over the years has barely dented the population.

"The bottom line is there are too many animals," Vosko said.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at or 702-455-4519.