Pittsburgh Free Cat and Dog Spay/Neuter Program, Plus Dog Legislation and Licensing

Pittsburgh at New Year
Pittsburgh at New Year
“We are the country’s most livable city—for our people,” city council president Darlene Harris said, “we should be for our animals too.”

The program was suspended for a while in 2014 but it’s back in full swing now, and City of Pittsburgh residents can apply for up to five spays or neuters for dogs or cats totally free of charge at participating shelters.

In February 2012 Pittsburgh’s City Council approved a program sponsored by Council President Darlene Harris that provides vouchers for up to five pets per household to Pittsburgh residents (the city has a limit of five pets per residence). The bill allocated $170,000 toward the program, yet the city spends much more than that in combined animal control costs.

From the document “City of Pittsburgh Free Spay & Neuter Program” under Animal Control on the City of Pittsburgh website

2010 Data for City of Pittsburgh Animal Care and Control
$36,000 paid annually for Euthanization by a Veterinarian
# of Detained       2010 Detention Cost   Total Annual Cost
Dogs 691 (45%)    $ 197.00                         $ 136,127
Cats 853 (55%)     $ 197.00                         $ 168,041
Total 1544*                                                     $ 304,168
* Only listing Dogs and Cats, internal invoices with ARL list 87 “other species”

Out of the TOTAL $170,000 Legislated toward the City of Pittsburgh Spay and Neuter Program:
• If Dogs are 45% of total detained = $ 76,500 / by avg. cost = 1092 Dogs
• If Cats are 55% of total detained = $ 93,500 / by avg. cost = 2833 Cats
TOTAL: $170,000 = 3925 Cats and Dogs

Financial Savings
For half the amount spent in 2010 ($170k vs. $340k) on detaining and euthanizing the City of Pittsburgh would have altered more than twice as many (3925 vs. 1544) cats and dogs detained in 2010.

Lives saved
Research shows that a single spay surgery can save 55 unwanted animals from being born.

“The numbers of animals we were killing was very sad, I’d rather not bring them into the world if that’s what would happen,” said Harris. “What we were paying per animal to trap and surrender them to a shelter was as much if not more than it cost to spay or neuter them.”

It took several years to determine what would be the best way to manage the situation and Harris visited other cities and worked with the groups who were planning to make Pittsburgh a no-kill city. “We are the country’s most livable city—for our people,” Harris said, “we should be for our animals too.”

Council decided that spaying and neutering pets of city residents will result in reduced costs immediately and into the future. Stray and feral cats maintained outdoors are also included in the program if they are within city limits.

The numbers of cats and dogs picked up by the city’s Animal Care and Control—the name change was part of the plan—has decreased each year since the program began. In 2011, 826 dogs and 1,039 cats were brought in; in 2012, 700 dogs and 1,026 cats; in 2013, 585 dogs and 791 cats. The Animal Rescue League and Animal Friends participate in the program as surgery providers. In 2012 they provided surgery for 171 cats and 188 dogs; in 2013, 393 cats and 244 dogs.

How the program works

Determine residency: This program is available all year round to residents of all neighborhoods in the city of Pittsburgh. To determine if your neighborhood is within city limits, reference this neighborhood map.

Pet limits: Pet owners are limited to five surgeries per address because the city has a limit of five pets per residence.

Complete the application: Apply by completing an application for each cat or dog. Residents can also apply for feral cats if the colony is in the City of Pittsburgh.

Prove city residence: Pet owners and/or caregivers must prove city residence by showing—

  • two bills with a valid city of Pittsburgh address
  • a driver’s license or equivalent form of identification with a valid city address.

Applicants will be contacted with appointment place, date and time, and pre- and post-surgery instructions.

Caretakers may also purchase a microchip for a pet at the time of surgery for $3.00.

Read more about it, and if you are a City of Pittsburgh resident you can also download an application here: http://www.pittsburghpa.gov/animalcontrol/spay_neuter.htm.

. . . . . . .

Cats and dogs can go into heat and successfully breed at FOUR MONTHS OF AGE.

You don’t need to wait until a kitten or puppy is six months old to spay or neuter. Pediatric spay and neuter can be performed as young as two months and weighing two pounds. Have the surgery done as soon as possible.


. . . . . . .

Legislation Protecting Dogs in Severe Weather

On December 15 Pittsburgh City Council approved and Mayor Bill Peduto signed into law ordinances to protect the welfare of dogs kept outdoors during severe winter weather. Councilwoman Darlene Harris sponsored the two pieces of legislation amending “Pittsburgh City Code at Title 6: Conduct, Article III: – Dogs, Cats and Other Animals, Chapter 633″,  one “providing for and setting forth requirements for outdoor shelters for dogs; and, penalty for violation”, and another “adding a new section at 633.23, providing for the manner by which a dog may be tethered; and, kept outdoors in severe weather conditions.”

Councilwoman Harris’s statement on her City Council page reads, “This legislation prohibits pet owners from leaving their dogs outdoors in extreme weather conditions for long periods of time, and provides standards for dog houses, and chains used for tethering.  These ordinances put forward today’s best practices for the humane treatment of dogs, and will give Animal Care and Control officers another tool to address the abuse and neglect of pets in our city.” 

. . . . . . .

Dog Licensing in Pennsylvania due by January 1

It’s quick and pretty inexpensive, and it’s the law that all dogs three months and older to be licensed by January 1 of each year.

An annual dog license is $8.50, or $6.50 if the animal is spayed or neutered. Lifetime licenses are available for dogs that have permanent identification like a microchip or tattoo. Older adults and people with disabilities may be eligible for discounts. The dog license application is simple and only requests owner contact information and details about the dog being licensed, like name, age, breed and color.

Violators can be cited with a maximum fine of $300 per violation plus court costs.

Agriculture Secretary George Greig reminds residents, “Buying a dog license is easy and affordable and it gives owners peace of mind knowing that if their dog gets lost, it’s his ticket home.”

Allegheny County residents can find information and applications through County Treasurer John Weinstein on the Allegheny County website. Residents in other counties can find their licensing agency through www.licenseyourdogPA.com or call the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement Office at 717-787-3062.


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4 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Free Cat and Dog Spay/Neuter Program, Plus Dog Legislation and Licensing

  • March 9, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    I love animals and feral cats has been my specialty for years. I have rescued numerous feral kittens and socialized them, got them vet care on my own, and found them good homes. I do believe in the TNR program because it helps to get feral cats spayed/neutered and shots so that you don’t have a continuing kitten population to deal with. I’ve also been able to rescue some young feral adults once they had kittens and I cared for them, but that’s another story. My problem is that I’ve been in touch with animal organizations and PETA…both with varying opinions about TNR. Pittsburgh wants to consider the city as sophisticated but many organizations have noted that cities that are sophisticated have TNR programs that are run properly. Caretakers are assigned to cats and ensure that they have shelter from the weather and that they are fed regularly. I’ve contacted one of the shelters in Pittsburgh and was told that they don’t know that caretakers sign a form stating they will feed the feral cats but there are people who go around and try to ensure feral cats get food. Animal Control does not want anyone to feed feral cats and that is a problem because they feel feral cats can fend for themselves. NOT SO. I’ve seen starving cats and, due to lack of proper nutrition, they may have other diseases. When I don’t find them in time, I have taken them to an animal shelter to be euthanized. It’s not a pretty sight by this time. I even have a cat that I rescued in Pittsburgh in 2009 when it was a tiny kitten. The mother was starving and very ill (she eventually made it once she was cared for) and 4 of 5 kittens died. The one that was left and I brought home had major problems but with the help of my vet, I was able to save her life. She is now 5 years old but needs continuing monitoring from health problems that could have been prevented. Maybe if Pittsburgh doesn’t want a proper TNR program and just the old “animal pound” of the 50’s, the ferals can go back to running around loose and having babies all over the place. You don’t get a feral cat TNR’d, just to return it to the colony to freeze or starve to death…very, very inhumane.

    • March 9, 2015 at 6:42 pm

      Ann, thank you for rescuing cats, and let me introduce you to the Homeless Cat Management Team with whom I volunteer. Our mission is to spay and neuter all cats including rescues, and return only those who have a caretaker who will take responsibility, and we do help these people all year long with food, shelters and low-cost or free medical care. The city works with us as do the shelters, but the city, for now, only has the free spay and neuter program. We call these cats “community cats” because not all are feral, but are abandoned by former owners and are usually frightened but ultimately friendly. Feeding of community cats varies by community, but there is no restriction on feeding community cats in the city. We feel every cat deserves food and shelter and veterinary care, even if it isn’t “owned” by anyone or live in a home. We can’t be everywhere and care for every cat, but we are always looking for volunteers who will help. Read this article here on The Creative Cat: https://thecreativecat.net/shelters-assistance-and-spayneuter-links/trap-neuter-return-and-the-homeless-cat-management-team-in-pittsburgh/#.VP4hiOHIlyA and visit the organization’s website: http://www.homelesscat.org/. We’re having a free-for-ferals clinic this weekend. Appointments are full, but you are more than welcome to volunteer and meet a few dozen people who TNR and care for cats every day.

      • March 9, 2015 at 7:12 pm

        Thank you for your reply. I know there are wonderful, caring people out there who have a great deal of compassion for cats. I hope that I can eventually do some type of volunteer work for your group or at least help financially in some way. It’s terrible when a feral is trapped, spayed/neutered and gets shots just to be returned to its original site and starve because Pgh Animal Control says you can be cited for feeding them. I don’t live in the city but my sister does and I come in quite often and have been trying to see if two cats who are TNR cats (ear-tipped) will eventually trust enough so I may be able to relocate them, if possible. A dog nearby killed the mother cat in 2011 when these kittens were about 5 weeks old and then several of the kittens and three more adult cats had been mauled or killed. Another person had possibly been trying to hurt them by throwing rocks at them, etc. Not very nice people so that’s why I was continuing to feed them. Loving animals isn’t always easy but I can’t just let them die of starvation. Thank you and I will be in touch again (soon I hope).

  • December 26, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Good for them for recognizing that spaying and neutering is the answer to the problem..not euthanizing..I wish all cities would get this..


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