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City to pay some dog owners for spay, neutering
ST. LOUIS -- Too many dogs and too many dog bites have prompted St. Louis officials to come up with a novel response: Pay owners of two particularly aggressive breeds to have the animals spayed and neutered.
Officials with the city Health Department and Operation SPOT (Stop Pet Overpopulation Today) announced Thursday a program offering $20 to owners of pit bulls and rottweilers if they'll agree to free spaying or neutering surgery.
The deal also includes a free rabies vaccination, microchip and city license. A $1,000 grant and local match will pick up the $20 incentive fee plus the cost of the procedure -- about $50 per dog.
"I know it sounds too good to be true but there is no catch," said Liz Rutter, president of Operation SPOT. "Each owner gets $20 cash. No strings."
City Animal Center manager Richard Stevson said the goal is to keep residents safe and reduce the need to euthanize so many unwanted animals. In the St. Louis area alone, 40,000 pets are put down each year.
"Pit bulls and rottweilers are most frequently involved in biting incidents so we are concentrating on those breeds," he said. "Our neighborhoods are not safe with too many animals running loose."
Veterinarian Philip Wagenknecht said evidence suggests pit bulls and rottweilers are more aggressive before being fixed, and the most aggressive are typically male.
"The research I've done in my clinic and from calling up animal control officials around the country is that 80 to 90 percent of the serious bites, vicious bites, unrelenting bites or fatal bites are caused by male dogs that are not neutered," Wagenknecht said.
"When you look at the numbers, these breeds always come to the top."
At Wagenknecht's St. Louis Pet Clinic, only 15 percent of the male rottweilers, pit bulls and Akitas are neutered and only 47 percent of the females are spayed, he said. Among all other breeds, 53 percent of males and 71 percent of females are treated.
"I'd have a pit bull as a pet in a minute but not a male that hasn't been neutered," he said.
The four-week incentive program begins Tuesday. Three days each week, owners can take pets to a designated recreation center at 8 a.m. The pets then will be transported to the St. Louis Pet Clinic for the procedure, performed by Wagenknecht. The animals will be returned at 3:30 p.m.
Operation SPOT received a donation of $1,000 from Animals Issues Movement in California to begin the program. The local organization matched the amount. Additional donations could keep the program going beyond the four weeks, Rutter said.
A similar program was implemented last year in New Orleans, Rutter said.
"New Orleans tried this on a much smaller scale and officials there said it made a difference," Rutter said. "We hope it does here, too."