NY Daily News, Tuesday, Februuary 3, 1998
Rudy barks in support of pay/spay pet policy
By LISA REIN
Daily News Staff Writer
Mayor Giuliani yesterday dug in his heels to defend the astronomical new fees charged to pet owners recovering lost animals from the city animal shelter -- and insisted the controversial costs are here to stay.
Even as the mayor argued that the pay-or-spay system penalizes only unlicensed dogs, the Daily News learned some city officials overseeing animal control policy haven't always followed their own guidelines.
The nonprofit Center for Animal Care and Control, which handles the city's strays, charges owners a minimum $250 cash payment to retrieve their lost pet if the owner does not want to spay or neuter it.
Animal advocates, while applauding the policy's goal, call it discriminatory and potentially illegal, as neutering is not required by law. If the shelter neuters the dog or cat, the cost is a minimum of $80. If not retrieved, an animal may be put to sleep after 48 hours, although dogs or cats with tags have a five day reprieve -- whether they are licensed or not, shelter officials said.
The $250 fee goes up if a dog is not licensed or needs shots or if dogs or cats lack a special microchip under their skin to identify them.
Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro called the no-spay fee an incentive and a positive benefit in the public interest.
"The city should be encouraging owners to spay or neuter their dogs," Mastro said.
But Mastro, who oversees the CACC, has not neutered his bearded collie, a show dog that competes regularly. Show rules bar spayed or neutered animals from competition.
Marilyn Haggerty-Blohm, expected to be named CACC director, said she had her Labrador retriever neutered after she took over as acting chief because of potential conflict of interest.
"How can I really say to people how strongly I believe in [spaying and neutering] if I have an unneutered dog?" she said.
Parks Commissioner Henry Stern's 6-year-old golden retriever, Boomer, one of the city's most prominent dogs, has not been neutered either. Giuliani press secretary Colleen Roche said the issue of Mastro's dogs "have nothing to do" with animal control policy.
"This is perfectly consistent with CACC policy," Roche said, noting that the CACC no spay fees are waived when a bred dog lands in an agency shelter.
The mayor said licensed dog owners can retrieve their animals for just $40. "If you refuse to follow the law, then the fees are somewhat higher," Giuliani said.