Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Pittsburgh Free Spay/Neuter Program for Cats and Dogs

calico cat bathing in window
Five free spays and neuters for City of Pittsburgh residents.

City of Pittsburgh residents can apply for up to five spays or neuters for dogs or cats totally free of charge at participating shelters. It’s hard to believe this program has been available to residents of the City of Pittsburgh for a decade. It was hard enough to believe the legislation even passed a council vote in 2012. Turns out it costs the city less to sponsor the surgeries than to pay animal control to round up stray and otherwise unwanted cats and dogs and surrender them to the shelters, and, of course, it saves lives.

History of the legislation

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 then 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” in 2012:

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 would 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—decreased in the first years after the program began. In 2011 (prior to the program’s beginning), 826 dogs and 1,039 cats were brought in; in 2012, 700 dogs and 1,026 cats; in 2013, 585 dogs and 791 cats. Humane Animal Rescue 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. The program was on hold for a portion of 2014 but resumed halfway through the year, and has continued since then.

How the program works

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

Determine residency: This program is available all year round to residents of all neighborhoods 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.

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.

  • Applicants will be able to rank first and second choices among Humane Animal Rescue East, Humane Animal Rescue West, and Animal Friends. Applicants will be contacted with appointment place, date and time, and pre- and post-surgery instructions.
  • Dog owners must also provide photocopies of current Rabies vaccination records and a City of Pittsburgh dog license. The HAR also requires that dogs be vaccinated for Distemper and Bordetella beforehand.
  • Cat vaccination records are optional for approval, but shots can otherwise be administered at the time of the procedure at owner’s expense.

Animal Care and Control asks for understanding if surgeries are not immediately available as certain times of the year are very busy, and the shelters also provide this service to the general public as well as the animals in their care.

Read more about it here, and if you are a City of Pittsburgh resident you can also download an application here:

. . . . . . .

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

You don’t need to wait until a kitten 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.


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Great Rescues Day Book

Each month features one of my commissioned portraits of a feline or felines and their rescue story along with a kitty quote on the left page, and on the right page the month name with enough lines for all possible dates, with standard holidays and animal-themed observances and events. Great Rescues also includes a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings including information on finding strays or orphaned kittens, adopting for the first time or caring for a geriatric cat, a list of household toxins and toxic plants, or helping stray and feral cats and beginning with TNR.

Each book includes also 10 sheets of my “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits in black and white so you can make your own notes or write special notes to friends.

The portraits in this book, collected as a series, won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Annual Communication Contest, as well as the 22 Cats Notepaper mentioned below.

Read more and order.


All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

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Weekly schedule of features:

Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life

Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters

Tuesday: Rescue Stories

Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork

Thursday: New Merchandise

Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy

Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats

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From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

4 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Free Spay/Neuter Program for Cats and Dogs

    • I’ll tell you, this move really surprised me, as well as the fact it’s lasted so long!

  • What a great program!
    If you can get your cat spayed for free there is no excuse for not getting it done.
    Yay for Pittsburg!!!!
    Purrs, Julie

    • Oh, they still find those excuses, but it makes it way easier to get them to agree.


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