GRAFTON—A local pet organization is asking for your help with the overwhelming overpopulation of dogs and cats in West Virginia.
The Federation of Humane Organizations of West Virginia, a grassroots West Virginia group supporting
statewide animal welfare issues for 22 years, is asking citizens to contact their local legislators concerning House Bill 2552.
HB 2552 would offer a state-wide benefit, available to residents, non-profits and animal control in all 55 counties. The bill would be a budget neutral option, and would not require any funding from the state’s budget.
HB 2552 is in the process of being introduced to the legislature, and is set to go before the House Agriculture Committee on March 14. The bill is proposing an increase on the Pet Food Fee to fund the West Virginia Spay and Neuter Assistance Program.
According to Theresa Bruner, Treasurer for FOHO, the group responsible for proposing HB 2552, this is not a mandatory spay/neuter bill. WV SNAP is a voluntary spay/neuter program, meaning that it would not impose the practices on anyone not wishing to alter their animals.
“It is important for people to understand that this is not a tax on West Virginians,” expressed Brenda Gerkin, Past FOHO Board Member. “This bill would increase the number of spayed and neutered animals, which in turn would decrease the pet population.”
Each year, West Virginia’s animal shelters take in over 50,000 cats and dogs, and of those about 40 percent are euthanized. FOHO reports that the care, impounding and euthanasia of these unwanted animals, is costing taxpayers approximately $10 million, annually.
Because of these staggering numbers, organizers came up with the WV SNAP Fund, as a means to help curb the number of unwanted animal deaths, while saving taxpayer dollars.
According to FOHO, WV SNAP was passed by the legislature in 2013, and is the only viable solution for reducing the over population of dogs and cats. The program will also help control the feral and stray cat population.
By 2015, rules for the program had been established, but now a law needs to be funded, so that the program can be used to its fullest. With funding to the program, the pet-overpopulation in our state could be greatly reduced within six-to-ten years, saving 50,000 animals from shelters and nearly 20,000 from death.
The WV SNAP Fund would not add any new fees; it would only increase the pet food registration fees paid by the Pet Food Industry, to sell their products in our state. HB 2552 is proposing that with the increased fees, the program could receive $900,000, each year.
“That $900,000 would be divided up by the counties in the state to help cut the cost of spay and neuter programs,” explained Gerkin. “But, better yet, it would help save taxpayers some of the $10 million dollars they are spending yearly, to care for or euthanize unwanted animals.”
If the pet food industry were to pass their increased costs onto consumers, it would only be an estimated cost of $1.00 per year, per pet.
“In states that have already implemented this type of program, there has been no noticeable increase to pet foods, and by pet foods we are talking about dog and cat foods only,” explained Bruner. “This isn’t going to happen on the retail or consumer levels.”
FOHO reported that in 2015, the pet food industry sold approximately $196 million in our state alone, and that pet food sales have continued to rise in West Virginia. This represents an increase of 18-22 percent from 2014, and an additional 16 percent increase is expected by 2018.
“Pet food sales are not affected by recessions, and continue to grow in our state,” explained Bruner. “As their profits continue to increase, money would continue to be available for funding the program.”
According to FOHO, 34 other states have state funded spay neuter programs. Other states have enacted them, as well, and have seen a decrease in pet homelessness. For example, after implementing their programs, New Jersey saw a 61 percent decrease, and New Hampshire reported a 75 percent drop in an eight month period.
“We just really need citizens to reach out to their legislators,” said Gerkin. “Call them, email them, write to them—whatever it takes to get our voices heard.”
Organizers of FOHO also encourage all residents to meet with their county commissions and local legislators, to educate them about HB 2552, as well as, WV SNAP.
“We cannot adopt, shelter, warehouse, rescue or kill our way out of dog and cat overpopulation. There is only one solution—HB 2552,” expressed Bruner.
For more information on FOHO WV and their mission, please log on to www.fohowv.org. To learn more about the WV Spay and Neuter Assistance Program, visit www.facebook.com/wvspayneuterfund.