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It’s Raining Cats and Dogs In Rural Oklahoma

posted January 5th, 2015 by
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It's Raining ...

It’s Raining Cats and Dogs In Rural Oklahoma

By Ruth Steinberger
Unwanted, stray and abandoned dogs and cats are found all across Oklahoma. Many people who care about animals want to know why. A generous Kirkpatrick Foundation grant was awarded to SpayFIRST to do exactly that—examine shelter practices and access to spay/neuter in order to provide a better understanding of where unwanted animals come from and what we can do about it.
The SpayFIRST survey assessed at-risk companion animals in Oklahoma through household demographics (including household incomes and access to affordable spay/neuter services) along 15 major highway corridors, combined with a detailed survey of shelters that fall within those corridors. (The SpayFIRST survey in its entirety is available on the TulsaPets Magazine website.)
In addition to the collection of the data, our conversations with shelter workers revealed that many cities have a part-time worker who cares for animals in the morning and then works at a different position thereafter. Those officers get no training in best practices in animal control, and the shelters do not operate at hours which encourage owners to look for their pets.
Many rural shelters are unheated, unventilated and have no budget for veterinary care. It was often hard to figure out who to speak with; many shelters had no phones, and city management didn’t know the answers to our questions, meaning there were no written protocols or supervision. Some city administration offices were even unsure of where to direct our calls.
Last year the Holdenville, Okla., shelter was reported for failing to feed animals when a citizen looking for a missing pet entered the shelter and alleged that carcasses were present, and dogs and cats were clearly not being fed or watered. A lack of oversight that could allow that to happen in one city occurs all across Oklahoma. A small number of shelter workers noted the shooting of dogs; others circumvented the discussion of euthanasia by claiming that all animals are adopted or rescued.
The survey included data from, the Department of Justice, and contact with each city that operates a shelter. City agencies were asked nine questions aimed at learning the number of animals handled, numbers euthanized, and methods of euthanasia and carcass disposal. Shelters were asked for information such as if animals were spayed or neutered before release or under a contract, and if under contract, is the contract enforced by the city or is compliance left up to the owner.
When refused sheltering, animals often face abandonment. Shelter access is the first line of defense against abandonment, and, in rural areas with chronic poverty, affordable spay/neuter services are the only line of defense against unwanted litters. Much of Oklahoma has neither.
For the survey, shelters were asked to provide either actual or estimated numbers because Oklahoma does not mandate that animal shelters keep accurate records. There are 136 municipal shelters or cities with contract arrangements for unwanted animals in Oklahoma. Twenty-eight shelters did not provide data; eight of those informed our team that they would not provide information, and the remainder simply did not return calls.
Three attempts were made to reach a shelter before determining they were non-respondent. Only 33 of the 136 shelters comply in full with the 1986 Oklahoma Dog and Cat Sterilization Act, a law mandating that shelter animals be altered before leaving a shelter or within 30 days of adoption. Fortunately, the largest shelters are all included in the 33 with compliant release procedures.
However, rural areas with the least access to spay/neuter clinics and the least access to sheltering are also the ones in which intact animals are most likely to be released from the existing shelters with no follow-up to ensure they were altered. Additionally, while the largest shelters engage best practices regarding sterilization of shelter animals, all are surrounded by shelters that do not, adding an undue burden to those that do comply.
Affordable spay/neuter access was defined as the ability to get a pet spayed or neutered for under 90 percent of a full day’s minimum wage net earnings (at around $48), within 40 miles of driving distance and within 30 days of the request for an appointment. For the purpose of this survey, we did not include access to the very important OVMA Pet Overpopulation Fund as despite good veterinary participation in the program, the fund often lacks money to approve surgeries in a timely manner.
Oklahoma has limited access to shelters. A little known state statute (Title 4, Ch.3, sec. 43) mandates that only counties with populations exceeding 200,000 people may “erect needful pens” and create animal control ordinances. Out of 77 counties, only three, Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland Counties, exceed that population; however, despite being able to operate a county-wide shelter, none of the three do. The Oklahoma City shelter accepts animals from county residents for a small fee; however, some residents of Tulsa County, and roughly one-third of homes in Cleveland County, have no access to a shelter.
According to this statute, the municipalities within a county may operate a shelter, while the county itself may not (unless they meet the population mandate). Over 40 percent of Oklahoma households have no access to an animal shelter. Sadly, animals do not get into crisis only where it is convenient and, essentially, an unwanted animal on one side of a street may enter a shelter, while across the road, outside of city limits, the dog’s fate is luck of the draw; many are abandoned to starve.
Attempts to eliminate the population restriction have historically been thwarted by the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma, an organization that lobbies based on cost, not compassion. Currently, all 77 Oklahoma counties are members of that organization; citizens can request the cost of their counties’ involvement in that organization.
What happens to most of the dogs and cats outside of these jurisdictions is anyone’s guess. Rescue organizations throughout the state take in strays and get ‘round the clock calls regarding animals that have been abandoned or “dumped.” Some receive animals at the request of law enforcement when an emergency arises, and others partner with cities on a regular basis. Virtually all comment that the lack of infrastructure is an obvious roadblock to addressing the state’s needs.
In a 2008 bond referendum, Pittsburg County (county seat, McAlister), population 45,048, bypassed the state statute and opened a county-wide animal shelter. It remains the sole publicly funded county-wide animal shelter in Oklahoma. Two other counties, Washington and Carter, have private, non-profit animal shelters that provide contract services to the cities of Bartlesville and Ardmore respectively; both provide open access sheltering to residents of the counties they are located in. Neither receives county funds for that service. The city of Lawton Animal Shelter, a municipal facility, turns no county animal away from its doors, making them the only city shelter in Oklahoma with that policy. The Lawton shelter receives no county support.
The inefficiency is glaring. In Creek County, (population 70,651) the cities of Sapulpa, Drumright, Bristow and Oilton operate animal shelters for residents of those cities, yet only 40 percent of Creek County households have access to a shelter.
Spay/neuter access is disparate, and increased access is needed in rural areas. Standing high-volume, low-cost clinics operate 10 to 16 days per month in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Lawton and Durant. While heavily populated areas have access to affordable spay/neuter services, many rural counties, especially in the Western half of Oklahoma, do not. The counties with the least access to affordable spay/neuter services are also the counties with the least access to shelters, and most shelters that do exist in rural counties continue to release intact.
Determining predictors of best practices is impossible, but policies appear to be driven, at least in part, by individuals who are intent on making the right choices. The relative wealth of the city did not foretell whether or not the city would engage best practices. For example, Oklahoma’s five highest population cities are Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman, Broken Arrow and Lawton. Broken Arrow, a suburb of Tulsa, with an average income 31 percent greater than the state average, and a poverty level less than half of the state average, is the only one of the five continuing to release intact kittens and puppies, was the only one of the five to refuse to disclose the numbers of animals handled and was the last of the five to euthanize companion animals in a gas chamber.
Tulsa used a gas chamber until 2008, and the others had earlier converted to humane injections. Conversely, the city of Lawton, with an average income below the state average and a poverty level above the state average, has had in-house spay/neuter for all animals for four years, was the first city in Oklahoma to ban the chaining of dogs and has the most stringent spay/neuter ordinance in our state, an ordinance that is rigorously enforced.
Rose Wilson, Animal Welfare supervisor for the City of Lawton for 25 years, said that shelter policies, or a lack of them, affects the most at-risk animals in addition to placing a huge burden on the communities and rescue organizations.
“Releasing intact animals, whether it is to reduce euthanasia or just not wanting the headache of getting animals to clinics, makes the people who are working so hard to rescue animals spin their wheels,” Wilson said.
Referring to the 1986 Oklahoma Dog and Cat Sterilization Act, Wilson also said, “The state statute on the need to spay or neuter shelter animals was passed for an important reason, but most of the small shelters get away with ignoring it, and they are adding to the problems. In the small cities, many officials don’t educate themselves about the laws or the reason the laws are there. Some don’t care, but they need to. They really need to start to care.”
As an entity that does care about the issue, Louisa McCune Elmore, executive director of the Kirkpatrick Foundation, explained the mission behind a larger statewide assessment that is being conducted by the foundation: “The SpayFirst survey is part of a multifaceted baseline study by Kirkpatrick Foundation to assess the status and condition of animals in Oklahoma’s geographic boundaries, from wildlife and pets to livestock.
“Animal well-being touches every part of society, even if those connections aren’t automatically or abundantly clear. Child wellness, healthy families, domestic violence, food systems, human health, prison reform, PTSD and returning veterans, environmental conservation, edu-cation, quality cities and communities, housing and tenancy, homelessness issues—you name it, we can always draw a direct line to the importance of animal well-being in our communities. I firmly believe that where animals fare well, children, individuals and families fare well. And conversely, where animals are suffering, so too are people.”

Oklahoma Shelter Animal Survey

posted July 15th, 2014 by
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by Ruth Steinberger

for The Kirkpatrick Foundation

Read the entire 2014 Spay FIRST Survey

The Oklahoma Shelter Animal Survey was designed to examine the myriad of factors that affect the numbers and conditions of unwanted dogs and cats in Oklahoma. We gathered data on shelter access, shelter protocols, affordable spay/neuter programs, household incomes and population density in order to present a matrix that describes the lives of at-risk pets.  We hope that this information will help to define the challenges facing those who strive to help homeless animals; we hope this information will empower their efforts.

We surveyed municipal shelters regarding general practices and asked for 1) the number of animals received, 2) the number euthanized, 3) method of euthanasia and carcass disposal, 4) what agency typically handles cruelty complaints, 5) are animals adopted out already altered or with a spay/neuter contract, 6) if a contract is used, is it enforced, 7) an estimate on number of calls for help from outside of jurisdiction, 8) is there a tag and/or spay neuter ordinance and, 9) is it enforced?   We truly appreciate the officers who spent time speaking with us.  We located as many as we learned of; please let us know if you see shelters that are not included in the survey.  It will remain online and information will be added in as it gets to us. Whenever animals are at risk, information about them is vital.

Because population is generally concentrated near highways, the information cites highway corridors in order to give the reader a visual description of the data.  The number of people per square mile is cited for each county because that information, combined with income levels, indicates the depth of the tax base that supports public services, including animal sheltering.

Many people care about the animals. However, in small cities in Oklahoma it is typical for a part time worker to manage the shelter and be responsible for other public works as well; animal welfare often takes a back seat.  Fewer than one fourth of cities have procedures that actually support compliance with the 1986 Oklahoma Dog and Cat Sterilization Act, a law intended to keep shelter animals from giving birth to more unwanted animals; many do not keep records of the number of animals handled and 28 shelters refused to return calls or told us they would not discuss their shelter policies with the public.    A small number of shelters regularly shoot at least some of the animals; shooting was earlier deemed a humane method of killing and to be acceptable for Oklahoma towns and cities with populations under 10,000 people.   That population describes over three quarters of Oklahoma municipalities.

Sensitive comments were excluded from this data.  Staff reports of using gunshot to kill dogs are not listed, as we could not confirm the information with city officials. Other shelters without licensed euthanasia technicians, and which refused to speak with us, may do likewise.

Unless the animal is being released to a research facility, there is no mandatory record keeping on the intakes, hold times and disposal of sheltered animals in Oklahoma.

With the exception of Broken Arrow all Oklahoma cities at or close to populations of 100,000 (Oklahoma City, City of Tulsa, City of Norman, City of Lawton) provided actual numbers for this survey.  With the exception of Broken Arrow the large cities sterilize all animals before release; Broken Arrow continues to release intact kittens and puppies.     Large population cities adopt out the greatest volume of shelter animals, meaning that it is likely that most shelter animals in Oklahoma are altered before release.

However, a steady flow of intact animals are released from shelters in rural areas that concomitantly have the least access to shelters overall, keep few records and have the lowest levels of income and law enforcement staffing per population; these areas lag far behind in terms of prevention, shelter access and animal welfare. The offspring of pets which are released to county homes that allow them to have a litter are without the original safety net of the shelter that originally released the parent, a situation that represents a decline in safety for the pets.

Two components have the greatest impact on the numbers of, and quality of life of, at-risk animals; the first is convenient access to affordable spay/neuter  programs  so  households may  prevent unwanted  litters  (see  map  on page  62), and the  second is  whether  or  not the  local municipality operates an animal collection facility that strives to engage best practices. We assessed the portion of households in each county that have access to a shelter and which do not (pp 63-73).    Those without shelter access are left to their own devices to deal with a stray or unwanted animal. A lack of sheltering makes abandonment into a de facto solution.

To describe access to spay/neuter services we focused on households earning under $25,000 per year, those earning under $35,000 per year and whether or not the home has access to services that charge under 90 percent of a day’s take home pay at minimum wage ($48 to $53) for a spay or neuter, the services are located within 40 miles from the county and are able to provide an appointment within 30 days.  We used those parameters as gas money, time lost from work and other incidentals add to the cost.

We focused on those two particular income groups because $35,000 has been defined as a threshold under which there is a significant decline in neutering of pets [JAVMA, Vol 234, No.8, April 15, 2009] and almost one third of US households earn under $25,000 per year [].  The volume of Oklahoma households in these income groups is higher than the national average; data at the bottom of each map comp ares the corridor to the national and state average.   Spay/neuter events such as Spay Day events were not included as spay/neuter access for the purpose of this survey.

It is a bit complicated to describe the number of homes with access to an animal shelter. A little known state statute limits sheltering to counties with populations exceeding 200,000 people, and only three out of 77 Oklahoma counties meet that population.  This statute creates a lack of infrastructure and a lot of suffering; legislative resistance to changing that law has come from county commissioners’ organi zations. Because of this statute people living within a town or city that is within a certain county have access to a shelter, those living in the county do not.

Our vision was to understand at-risk animals in the contexts in which they live and to define as many factors as possible that affect their lives.

In 19 Oklahoma counties, between 17 and 24 percent of households earn under $10,000 per year; 14 of those counties do not have easy access to affordable spay/neuter services, most have minimal access to sheltering and sheltering in these counties is generally not compliant with good practices.  We called these the ‘crisis counties.’  Law enforcement staffing in the crisis counties operates at 15 to 40 percent of the national level of law enforcement staffing (see pages 76-77).  Infrastructure for stopping neglect is poor as in these 19 counties as, 1) it is virtually impossible for many homes to prevent litters because they cannot afford to have pets spayed at full service prices, clinics are far away and our state license plate fund is underfunded, 2) there is little household access to shelters at which to release an unwanted animal and 3) deputies handle two to five times the number of cases as their counterparts in other states, making investigation of cruelty or abandonment problematic.

Abandonment is described as a problem in all Oklahoma counties; if we presume that most do not have a fairy tale ending, it is safe to say that conservatively thousands of animals are at-risk of becoming abandoned and subject to cruelty that are never even counted.

We collected data from phone calls, and relied on and Dept of Justice (DoJ) for statistics regarding population, income and law enforcement staffing.   We made at least three attempts to reach shelters before deeming them unwilling to speak.   Those that personally refused to respond are listed as such. Shelters were asked to provide either actual or estimated numbers.

We extend our warmest thanks to the officers and county workers who generously shared their time to provide insights, observations and guidance as we sought to understand these issues.   Many officers expressed the desire to see meaningful change for homeless animals in our state and we know they truly meant it.  We thank the Kirkpatrick Foundation for generous funding, and Program Director Paulette Black, Executive Director Louisa McCune and survey coordinator Kristi Wicker for their thoughtful guidance as this survey developed.   Thank you to Spay Oklahoma for support of my role in this endeavor, to the Spay FIRST board for supporting all efforts to help animals that are left out in the cold and to Melanie Anderson for the connections that brought us together.  Last but certainly not least, a very warm thank y ou to Vanessa Wandersee of Mission, SD, a dedicated research assistant who spent countless hours reaching out to shelters and documenting the status of companion animals in Oklahoma.  Her compassion toward animals, and insight about the communities they live in, contributed greatly to this document.

Thank you and we hope you will join us in seeking greater accountability for the lives of homeless pets in Oklahoma.


Ruth Steinberger

[email protected]


Oklahoma Shelter Study to be Released

posted May 4th, 2014 by
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Foshay PhotographersThis event will release the results of a shelter study done by SPAYFIRST!, and generously funded by Kirkpatrick Foundation.  It tracks the numbers of shelters in Oklahoma, what area of each county has access to a shelter and what their overall policies are.  A shockingly low number of Oklahoma shelters comply with the 1986 Oklahoma Dog and Cat Sterilization Act, over half keep no records of the numbers and some refuse to say how they euthanize or dispose of carcasses.

This event is for everyone who cares about homeless animals. Please join us on this day for homeless dogs and cats in Oklahoma.

The event is from noon to 1 in the Blue Room at the Capitol.  We want everyone who cares about unwanted animals to join us.

For information call 580-326-4100

The Importance of Enforcing the Oklahoma Dog and Cat Sterilization Act

posted September 16th, 2012 by
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by Ruth Steinberger

The 1986 Oklahoma Dog and Cat Sterilization Act was forward- thinking legislation intended to prevent unwanted litters from being born to former shelter pets; essentially, it was to stop the release of unwanted pets that then produce more unwanted pets. Intact release can quickly turn a shelter into the single largest source of at-risk pets in a community.

The Act mandates that animals released from public or private shelters in Oklahoma be spayed or neutered, either by contract or pre-adoption sterilization. It further stipulates that if a contract is used instead of pre-adoption sterilization, the pet must be altered within 30 days (exceptions are made for animals under six months of age), and the new owner is to pay a deposit of no less than $10, which is to be refunded upon proof of surgery. However, the law has no penalties for non-compliance and has no enforcement mechanism. Therefore, it may be time to update the law and close the loopholes in this important tool to help animals.

TulsaPets Magazine decided to find out how well the statute is working. Our survey shows that with over 25 years since the passage of this statute, compliance is sporadic; some Oklahoma shelters evade even the simple mandate for a contract. And communities that do comply are likely affected by neighbors that do not.

For example, the cities of Tulsa, Claremore, Owasso, and Tulsa SPCA and Washington County SPCA practice pre-adoption sterilization, while Broken Arrow, Sand Springs, Sapulpa, Glenpool, Catoosa and Jenks release some or all animals intact. And the further the shelter is from an urban area, the more likely it is to be non-compliant, so while the Pittsburg County Shelter in McAlister, Okla., complies with the statute by sterilizing animals prior to adoption, shelters in cities in neighboring Pushmataha, Latimer, Atoka and Hughes counties release intact pets. In addition to increasing the number of homeless animals, the lack of enforcement invites unscrupulous puppy mill operators and dog dealers to take their pick, placing at-risk animals into a never-never land of horrors in which their suffering is unseen and unaddressed.

Some towns comply in regard to adult animals, while releasing puppies and kittens intact. Unfortunately, this policy places animals with the greatest reproductive timeline (kittens and puppies) into circulation intact, while sterilizing older pets that may produce far fewer litters. Some cities flout the law altogether, making the process of reducing the number of homeless pets virtually impossible while ensuring that animal control costs will steadily rise. For example, the city of Durant releases some intact animals for free and without a contract.

Officer Steve Harris, field supervisor at Tulsa Animal Welfare has worked in animal sheltering for 12 years. “The issue of pre-adoption spay/neuter is all about what happens to the animals after they leave the shelter,” he says. “I don’t care how good your shelter looks or how new it is; if your policies allow animals to end up having litters, you’re a part of the problem. I believe that all of the shelters that neighbor [the] city of Tulsa need to spay or neuter the animals before they are released. It’s the only way we will ever get the problem under control. That goes for the rescues too. They should all spay or neuter before they pass them on to the new owners.”

Additionally, neuter before adoption (NBA) is not a luxury reserved for shelters with in-house clinics. Some shelters that do not have in-house clinics include the cities of Claremore, Stillwater, Moore, and Washington County SPCA, all of which alter all adopted pets before they go to the new home through a combination of relationships that include local veterinarians who arrange last-minute appointments for adopted animals and spay/neuter clinics (the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine provides spay/neuter services for the City of Stillwater and other shelters). While it takes a bit of organizing to get the pet to the clinic, and it’s a bit more work on the front end, it prevents litters and saves time from dealing with contracts later on.

Dawnette Brady, executive director of Washington County SPCA, says, “We stopped allowing deposits to be made for spay/neuters on pets being adopted in [the] fall of 2009. Every animal must be spayed/neutered prior to release. It’s relatively easy to make that change happen, and we have never had someone get upset with our policy. I know how we were able to turn the corner and make the change and will speak with any shelter that wants information on how we did it.”

Senior Animal Control Officer for the City of Lawton Rose Wilson has created a middle ground at her shelter with an abbreviated surgery room. “We partner with a local veterinarian, Dr Wayne Haney, who comes here to spay and neuter on site,” she says. “And just because you are using a contract doesn’t mean you cannot follow through. You need to have officers that are knowledgeable about enforcement, and you need a municipal system that understands the seriousness of this issue and supports what you’re trying to do.” She adds that it may involve taking pictures of those who have lost their lives to euthanasia to get the point across, but that the support is vital to creating change.

“If a shelter is adopting on a spay/ neuter contract, the fee is very important,” Wilson says. “It needs to create an incentive to get it done. And the fine for not complying needs to be high enough to make an impression.”

In our TulsaPets Magazine survey, the best contract we found is the one used by Enid Animal Shelter. Under the Enid contract, the new owner chooses from a list of local clinics and pays for the spay or neuter before taking the pet home. They then take the pet to the clinic to redeem the already paid for surgery. It does not cost more money to fulfill the contract, so it’s an easy choice.

That is not so in cities where the “deposit” is merely a portion of the cost of spaying or neutering the new pet, a process which forces the new owner to pay out more money to complete the adoption process after the animal is in their home. If the surgery costs more than the deposit, the new owner can save money by forfeiting the deposit and leaving the pet intact; basically, there is a financial incentive for noncompliance. It’s an honor system that usually fails. Nationally, the estimate on compliance with sterilization contracts is under 50 percent.

“A lot of places have adoption contracts that they themselves do not understand,” Wilson says. “A contract isn’t worth having if you’re not going to enforce it, or if it just carries a fine that people can laugh at.”

Deposits of $25 to $40 are the average at the Oklahoma shelters that release pets on contract; the City of Enid was the only agency that we spoke with that collects the full cost of the surgery as a deposit. None of the shelters releasing animals on a smaller deposit had programs in place whereby the surgery was paid in full by the smaller deposit.

Nancy Atwater, executive director and founding board member of Tulsa-based Spay Oklahoma, says that the problem of intact release of shelter pets cannot be overstated. “This is a no-brainer,” she says. “Releasing intact animals is self defeating. At least some of the animals will have unwanted litters that will then produce unwanted litters. Intact release also reduces the chances of a successful adoption; the behavior associated with being intact, such as roaming, fighting or attracting males does not make the pet more endearing to people.”

“Things have changed a lot since the passage of this statute in 1986,” Atwater adds. “Veterinarians used to tell people to have pets spayed at 6 months. But a lot of cats are pregnant by 6 months old, and now people are encouraged to avoid the first heat cycle. It’s important to revisit these policies, so they do what they are intended to do.”

Spay Oklahoma helps shelters in the region develop procedures for transport and billing, so that pets can be altered before going into a new home. “A volunteer can accomplish a lot by becoming a spay/neuter transporter for their local shelter,” Atwater says.

Rose Wilson best summed up the importance of the Sterilization Act, and why we should look closely at this issue. “The main thing is that if the law is worth passing, it needs to be enforced,” she says. “There’s no point in passing laws we don’t plan to enforce.”

The following list shows each county in Oklahoma, its’ population, and each town within that county that has a mechanism for handling unwanted dogs, or “animal control”; the population of each town with “animal control” is included beside the name of the town. When added together, the populations of the towns reveal the number of residents of the entire county that can humanely release an unwanted animal. When divided by the overall population, that figure reveals the percentage of the population that has such access and the percentage that does not.  This information was gathered by contacting county clerks and sheriff’s offices, and following those calls with calls to individual municipalities. Despite our best efforts, we estimate that some facilities were missed.  In rural places the information can be rather fluid. Animal control services may be interrupted when an animal control officer vacates their job. A few officers without shelters simply take animals home.  Contractual live animal removal services range from apparently legitimate private services, to a, “man who comes and gets dogs.”Between one third and one half of the municipal facilities collect strays only, refusing owner surrenders. Outside of large shelters, very few accept cats. Limited accurate euthanasia records may be available (based on method, or combination of methods, and therefore payment), but accurate records of animals entering and leaving the shelters alive are actually rare outside of shelters in larger municipalities.  We estimate less than one fifth of rural shelters comply with the state law requiring sterilization of shelter animals. A lack of shelters causes some officers to rely on unacceptable “rescue” channels, an issue tied to several large-scale removals in the last two years, including notorious ones in Stigler and Vici.  Animal disposal in places without shelters (which includes over half of rural Oklahoma) includes abandonment, shooting and drowning.  A limited number of unwanted, but “adoptable,” animals go into private shelters. For older, large, sick, or ugly dogs, and cats, there is virtually no place of refuge.  Most importantly, the focus of most rural services is to eliminate nuisance animals. Animal welfare is occasionally significant to individual officers; this seems to be strengthened if the officer has the assistance and support of local humane volunteers.  Thank you very much for your interest in this information..

Ruth Steinberger and Tara Beres

Population of Oklahoma: 3,523,553

Total population served by animal control: 2,372,182

Overall percentage served by animal control: 67.3%


Oklahoma population with Tulsa and Oklahoma counties removed: 2,273,590 (3,523,553 – 1,249,963)

Population served with Tulsa and Oklahoma counties removed: 1,122,219 (2,372,182- 1,249,963)

Percentage of Oklahoma served by animal control outside of Tulsa and Oklahoma counties: 49.3%


Population in the Oklahoma panhandle (Beaver, Cimarron, Texas counties): 28,667

Population served by animal control in the Oklahoma panhandle: 14,467

Percentage served by animal control in the Oklahoma panhandle: 50.4%


Population in southeastern Oklahoma (Atoka, Bryan, Choctaw, Coal, Haskell, Hughes, Johnston, Latimer,

LeFlore, McCurtain, Marshall, Pontotoc, Pushmataha counties): 241,257

Population served by animal control in southeastern Oklahoma: 86,892

Percentage served by animal control in southeastern Oklahoma: 36%


Population in rural northeastern Oklahoma (Adair, Cherokee, Craig, Creek, Delaware, Logan, Mayes,

Osage, Ottawa, Wagoner, Washington, counties): 358,301

Population served by animal control in northeastern Oklahoma: 153,239

Percentage served by animal control in northeastern Oklahoma: 42%


Population in southwestern Oklahoma (Beckham, Carter, Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Garvin, Grady, Greer,

Harmon, Jackson, Jefferson, Kiowa, Love, Murray, Stephens, Tillman, Washita counties): 426,339

Population served by animal control in southwestern Oklahoma: 259,549

Percentage served by animal control in southwestern Oklahoma: 60.8%


Population in northwestern Oklahoma (Alfalfa, Blaine, Canadian, Custer, Dewey, Ellis, Garfield, Grant,

Harper, Kingfisher, Logan, Major, Roger Mills, Woods, Woodward counties): 300,347

Population served by animal control in northeastern Oklahoma: 156,757

Percentage served by animal control in northeastern Oklahoma: 52.1%


Data compiled by Ruth Steinberger, Coordinator, Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, 918-367-8999

Tabulations assisted by Tara Beres, Director, Safe Haven Center, Oklahoma City, OK, 405-821-7367

Fabio – Spay First Spokesman

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Anna Holton-Dean

OF COURSE, Fabio Lanzoni is known for his long, flowing hair, impeccable phy­sique and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter commercials—he’s also been known to grace the cover of a romance novel or two—but what many may not know is he is a long-time animal lover, advocate and owner of many rescued dogs. We recently had the chance to catch up with him dur­ing his trip to Oklahoma City in support of Spay FIRST! and his new MVP K9 Pro­tein supplements. Knowledgeable and passionate about the pet overpopulation problem, Fabio talks about his own pets and explains to us why the Spay FIRST! program is so important to animals and our country.

Q So what do you think of Oklahoma so far?

A Love it… very pretty town. I know it’s a city, but when you live in New York and Los Angeles, it’s more like a town. The people are so nice. The middle of the U.S. really has the nicest people. [All over the country] there are great people. That’s why I live here.

Q What kind of pets did you have growing up in Italy?

A I’ve had animals since I was 3 years old. My parents always let me keep a few dogs. Me, my sister and my brother, we always had our own dogs. For many years we had German Shepherds, a couple of Dobermans, my brother had a couple of hunting dogs; we had some Great Danes, but eventually I stopped owning Great Danes because their life spans are too short, and you are having to say goodbye. You know, the average age is 6 to 8 years. So I started rescuing Rottweilers, and I cur­rently have six of them. My family has hunt­ing dogs and a Lab.

Q Where do you live now, and how did you get involved with spaying/ neutering efforts there?

A I live in Los Angeles… I live here the majority of the time so that’s where I have the majority of contribution. My best friend is one of the top professors at UC Davis for the vet school, teaching surgery there. That’s why I always get involved with different associations and now with Spay FIRST! I always knew the importance because she told me when you spay and neuter a dog, you improve their life and help prevent cancer; you give them a lon­ger life span, you know. It’s scientifically proven.

First, for health reasons, you have a healthier pet. Second of all, everybody is so concerned about cutting costs. When you think about it, it’s the easiest cost to cut… $2 billion a year to euthanize about 4 million dogs and cats. This is the most advanced country in the world, and this shouldn’t happen here; it’s a shame. It would be way better for everyone to spay or neuter their dog; I think that $2 billion a year should be back in the pockets of taxpayers.

Q How did you get involved with Spay FIRST?

A I used to work a lot for the American Cancer Society with Tina Mosetis. She contacted me with Ruth Steinberger (founder of Spay FIRST!), and said, ‘You’ve had dogs all your life; what about being the spokesperson, making people aware of the situation?’ The majority of dogs I’ve had we’ve always rescued from shelters. Four of my current dogs are shelter dogs, so I know the problem—there’s overpopu­lation. People get a pet then take it to the shelter because they get tired of taking care of it.

Q What would you say to people who do not realize the importance of spaying/neutering pets?

A There’s nothing more awful than an animal lover seeing a dog suffer in the shelter. They can smell the death all around; they can smell all the other dogs that have been euthanized. Even the most macho dogs walk into the shelter, and they start shaking; they know how they are go­ing to end up. It always takes my heart.

In L.A., and other places, I always got involved to help and place some of the dogs, tried to get some of my friends to adopt some of these dogs. I’ve placed at least 50 dogs by convincing friends, ‘Come on, I’ll help you to get a dog.’ You know, it’s amazing they know you saved their life. They really do. When you invest in a dog you didn’t rescue, there’s a dif­ference. The rescue dogs know you saved their life.

Most of these dogs in shelters, they come from mistreatment or abuse, so they really have a tough life. You can tell if you take a before and after picture of a dog who you rescue, you will see in the dog two different faces, two different personalities. I know every time you leave the first year, they are really afraid you are going to leave them [permanently]. Other [non-rescue] dogs wag their tails when you leave and when you come back; they know no difference.

If you want your dog to be healthy and to prolong the life of your dog, it should be spayed or neutered. It also resolves any ag­gression problem. It’s very rare that a dog spayed will bite a person. It’s important to keep the population under control, and if you want to cut costs in government, it’s a good place to start—not kill 4 million ani­mals every year. It’s a no brainer and keeps more money in taxpayers’ pockets.

Q What’s the most important thing you want people to remember about the homeless pet population?

A I want people to realize when they buy a dog, it’s a responsibility, and they should be man or woman enough to care for it. That dog is going to be in their life for 12 or 14 years. Just because it chews on furniture or shoes all of a sudden, you don’t dump it. It’s like a kid; you have to care for it. It’s not something you buy then dispose of like a Kleenex.

Coming September 17…

posted September 16th, 2011 by
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Spay FIRST! announces the launching of a new website designed to explain the importance of spay neuter and also to provide comprehensive information on starting, expanding or increasing the efficiency of rural spay neuter programs.  From private practice partnerships to mobile spay neuter clinics, Spay FIRST! offers ideas that will help map out the way.

Our “get informed…get involved” website will answer…

  • Why is spay neuter the “first strike” in reducing the number of euthanasias, abandonments and incidents of animal neglect?
  • How can a community with no animal shelter begin to reduce animal suffering and the number of dogs and cats needing emergency help even before a shelter is being considered?
  • Why are spay neuter ordinances a positive step for communities trying to reduce the number of unwanted litters and how can we help them succeed?

The Spay FIRST! website will feature a sharing space in which organizations and organizers are welcome to share tips on programs, outreach, ideas, education and more.