The City of San Jose has enacted such a program beginning in October 1994. After a slow start, the program took off in about February, 1995 after the local newspaper ran two articles on the program. The Humane Society of Santa Clara Valley reported as of August, 1995 they have had an 11% increase in the number of stray cat intakes for the San Jose this year, however, there is a 25% increase for the surrounding cities at the same shelter. Additionally, for the month of August, 1995 there is a 25% increase in San Jose stray cat intakes over August, 1994, and a 163% increase for the surrounding cities. A similar program for dogs was begun on May 1, 1995.
The vouchers are issued by volunteers in the City Manager's office. The only requirement is that participants must be residents of the City of San Jose. People request vouchers, either in person or by mail, and they take these to one of the 15 participating veterinarians. There is no limit to the number of cat vouchers a resident can obtain. The cat is "fixed" for free. Dog vouchers are limited to two per household, and do not seem to be in high demand except by rescue groups.
The city reimburses the veterinarians at a set fee of $25/female, $15/male. If the female is pregnant the veterinarian reimbursement adjusts upwards to a maximum of $50 for a full-term pregnancy. Other female problems also adjust the price--in heat, infections, etc. For males with anatomical abnormalities, the fee can be increased up to $150 depending on the degree of surgery necessary to completely neuter the male. The costs for altering have averaged $23.96 per cat. Dogs are altered at a higher rate, depending on weight and sex.
The veterinarians have control over whether or not they will alter the animal. If an animal is too sick, or has other problems, the veterinarian can decline to do the surgery. Attached to the voucher is a short, anonymous questionnaire for the owner to fill out at the veterinarian's. This questionnaire asks ownership questions useful to monitoring the program's success and to determine who is using the program and whether or not they have any further suggestions for the program. The questionnaires are sent back to the City Manager's office for tabulation.
The veterinarians have had no problems, the people redeeming the vouchers like the program, and the volunteers have kept the program working smoothly. Veterinarians who are not on the official list of designated clinics to do the surgeries are now clamoring to become a part of the program. Best of all, city costs to handle stray cats will be reduced dramatically in a very short time period.
For the first year of the program over 3800 cats have been altered, approximately one half of which were strays, and 60% females. An additional 350 dogs have been altered in the past 5 months at an average cost of $42.00.
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