Van visits neighborhoods to sterilize cats

Posted: Monday, June 09, 2008

ANCHORAGE - With help from the municipality of Anchorage, a program to spay and neuter cats has gone on the road.

The Fix-A-Feline program takes a van to neighborhoods across the city and offers low-income owners free sterilization for their cats.

The city chipped in $7,500 for the program. That will pay for the operations for 200 animals, according to the Alaska Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"Instead of just building more cages, this is a proactive way to address the problem," said Toni Diedrich, spokeswoman for the SPCA in Alaska.

Anchorage Animal Control last year processed 4,160 cats through its doors. Of those, 1,945 were euthanized. That's more than the 1,553 adopted out, said Scott Gower, Animal Control spokesman.

About the same number of dogs were processed by Animal Control, but only 545 were euthanized.

"They are not valued like dogs," Diedrich said of the cats. "They are treated like second-class citizens."

Nationally, in 2005, animal shelters took in 8 million to 12 million companion animals and euthanized an estimated 5 million to 9 million, or 60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats, according to the American SPCA.

Veterinarian Liesl Lewis, who performed operations Saturday in the vet van, said cats are particularly fertile and often present more of a problem than dogs.

"Their reproductive systems are identical to rabbits," she said. "It only takes one encounter and they will likely end up pregnant."

Cats and dogs are subject to the same city laws, Gower said. Both must be restrained when outside their owner's property. On their owner's property, they must be restrained or they must respond to voice commands.

The cost to spay or neuter a cat in Anchorage can be more than $150, Diedrich said.

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