The AFNYC Study
Animal Friendly NYC asked Dr. Alexander Kiss, Manager of Research Design and Biostatistics at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, Canada's largest research hospital, to project the effect of doing 20,000 low-cost spay and neuter surgeries a year on the number of cats and dogs taken in by New York City shelters.
We knew that doing this many surgeries would reduce the number of abandoned dogs and cats, but we were surprised by how significantly and how quickly low-cost clinics would improve the picture.
The sharpest drop comes in the first year. Dr. Kiss' analysis found that the number of dogs and cats entering the city's shelter system would drop by 42%, from 41,500 to 24,000. (See Figure 1 and Table 1)
Costs for sheltering dogs and cats would also drop dramatically in the first year, from $8.3 million to $4.8 million. (See Table 1)
Best of all, even when the cost of providing the surgeries is included, the city saves money in the first year. Sheltering and clinic costs, the analysis showed, would total $6.1 million, a savings of over $2 million in Year One. (See Table 2)
Shelter intake declines more gradually in the succeeding years. But by Year Ten, the number of dogs and cats entering the city's shelters would drop to 19,660. Without the clinic program, 34,000 dogs and cats would be entering the shelters.
Over a ten-year period, the city would save a total of $18 million even when the cost of operating the clinics is added to the cost of sheltering the animals. Without a sustained clinic effort, the study showed that the city will spend $75.5 million on shelters in the next ten years.
Even more important, the number of cats and dogs euthanized will drop dramatically. Currently, the city's rescue and adoption efforts - both public and private - manage to place a total of about 20,000 abandoned dogs and cats into permanent homes each year.
As the number of dogs and cats entering the city's shelters falls closer to the number of homes that open up each year, the city's existing network of rescue and adoption groups will be able to place animals who are currently being put down for lack of a home. Within a few years, only those dogs and cats truly too sick or damaged will be euthanized.
How the Study Was Done
Dr. Kiss used a New Hampshire program1
that has been offering state-subsidized low-cost spay and neuter surgeries since 1995 to model his projections for New York City. The New Hampshire program has led to a steady decline in shelter intake. (See Figure 3) Dr. Kiss used the rate of decline New Hampshire achieved and applied it to New York City shelters, which have experienced a gradual decrease in dog and cat intake. (See Figure 2)
Adjusting for the existing decline in New York City, Dr. Kiss then projected the effect of performing 20,000 low-cost surgeries using the New Hampshire decline as a model.
Dr. Kiss used $200 as the average sheltering cost per animal, which is based on the actual cost of sheltering an animal in New York City Animal Care and Control shelters. Animal Care and Control shelters took in 44,547 animals in 2005, 93% of which were cats and dogs. Its budget in 2005 was $8.9 million.2
To establish the cost of running the clinics, he used the real-life costs of subsidizing surgeries at the Have-A-Heart Spay and Neuter Clinic that operated in Manhattan for six and a half years -- $55 per surgery. Have-A-Heart spayed and neutered 6,700 animals a year until it closed in December 2003.3
Significantly, the $55 average includes not just yearly operating costs, but the entire cost of establishing the clinic, including leasehold improvements and equipping the large state-of-the-art clinic.
However, for this study, Animal Friendly NYC asked Dr. Kiss to use a more conservative figure of $65 as the average cost of subsidizing a surgery.
1. For a profile of the program, see Animal Control Management, published by the International City/County Management Association. Washington, D.C., 2001.
2. Audit Report on Shelter Conditions and Adoption Efforts of Animal Care and Control of New York City, City of New York, Office of the Comptroller. June 19, 2006.
3. Personal correspondence and conversations with The Fund for Animals President and Chairman of the Board. December 2003.