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Spay/Neuter Before Adoption

Helping Indiana Saves Lives and Money Indiana Code 15-20-4

Background

In 2016, Pet Friendly Services of Indiana (then known as “Spay-Neuter Services”) and partnering organizations gathered preliminary data, with 40 of Indiana’s 92 counties reporting. The cost of shelter overpopulation totaled $16.2 million. Had all counties reported, the cost could be as much as $37 million.

This money is spent annually to shelter and destroy thousands of unwanted animals. In the United States, 31 percent of dogs and 41 percent of cats entering shelters were euthanized.

The problem is compounded when adoptive families do not spay/neuter their pets. To address this, the Indiana State Legislature unanimously passed House Enrolled Act 1201 in 2016. The new law, IC 15-20-4, requires that rescue groups and shelters spay/neuter before adoption, effective July 1, 2021. Spay/neuter before adoption is a best practice in animal welfare, and, with the passage of this bill, Indiana joined 33 other states with similar laws.

Cost Considerations

In Indiana and across the nation, most municipal shelters are underfunded, as are non-profit rescue groups. Many operate on shoestring budgets and are either all-volunteer organizations or rely heavily on volunteers to serve animals in need. It is presumed that rescues and shelters that do not require spay/neuter before adoption do so because of lack of funding. Sadly, some of the animals adopted out produce unwanted litters that are returned to the shelter to start the cycle again.

The goal of IC 15-20-4 is not to punish shelters and rescues, but to help them succeed in saving both lives and money.

Spay/neuter is incredibly cost-effective when compared to sheltering animals. A national survey found that shelters spend an average of $176 to $450 for each impounded animal, with some Indiana shelters estimating costs that are considerably higher.

Compare this to spay/neuter programs such as the financial assistance program offered by Pet Friendly Services of Indiana, with a cost is just $65 per animal. Spay/neuter addresses the root cause of shelter overpopulation and has proven to reduce both shelter intake and euthanasia rates.

Overview of Indiana Code 15-20-4

  1. Effective July 1, 2021, the new law required that organizations with adoptable companion animals spay/neuter before adoption. This includes both governmental and private entities, including rescue organizations.
  2. An animal may be exempt from this requirement if a veterinarian determines the animal’s health does not allow for the safe administration of a spay-neuter procedure. In such instances, the adopter makes a deposit of $75 to the animal care facility before adoption. This deposit is held by the animal care facility in a separate account and shall be returned to the depositor within 120 days if the spay-neuter procedure has been completed OR forfeited to the bureau of motor vehicles if the procedure is not completed.
  3. You can find Indiana Code 15-20-4 in its entirety here.

Finalizing Adoptions

Pet Friendly Services of Indiana and our partnering organizations worked together to seek state funding to help shelters and rescue organizations comply with this new law. Sadly, we were not able to obtain funding.

Even though the new law lacks a funding provision, the law does provide shelters and rescue groups with the backing of the State of Indiana regarding legally finalizing adoptions. This state law reinforces your message that adoptions cannot legally be finalized without the required spay/neuter surgery.

Groups wishing to add a “foster to adopt” provision to their adoption contract can effectively move animals out of an overcrowded shelter and into an adoptive home. From there, groups can finalize adoptions once the spay/neuter surgery has been completed.

Similarly, the $75 deposit for animals that are too young or whose health does not allow for the safe administration of a spay-neuter procedure, will allow animals to leave the shelter, with the requirement that the pet be spayed or neutered before finalizing the adoption agreement and returning the $75 deposit to the adoptive family.

Pet Friendly Services of Indiana is compiling model contract language that can be added to adoption contracts to strengthen the messaging that adoptions will be finalized prior to having the cat or dog spayed/neutered. 

If your organization has model contract language that you would like to share, please email us at info@PetFriendlyServices.org and we will add it to our resources page.

Enforcement

As with many important laws, enforcement is not always adequate to ensure compliance. The same holds true with Indiana Code 15-20-4. While there may not be adequate law enforcement to ensure every rescue and shelter is in compliance, animal welfare groups tend to keep an eye on each other and hold one another accountable. Similarly, animal welfare groups seek to help each other to ensure we are doing the best for animals in need.

Pet Friendly Services is Here to Help

If your shelter will begin spaying/neutering before adoption due to this law, please let us know. We will help fund spay/neuter surgeries to the extent that our budget allows. Please contact us so we can start the discussion and budget accordingly. Contact us at info@petfriendlyservices.org.

Sample Text For Adoption Contracts

As you update your adoption contracts, you can consider the text below. To see the full online contract, visit It Take’s A Village No-Kill Rescue’s adoption contract, here: https://itvrescue.org/adoption-application/

Although almost all (Insert Your Rescue’s Name) animals are altered before adoption, for medical or other reasons, alteration is not always possible prior to adoption. If my animal is not already altered, I agree to cooperate with (Rescue’s Name) representatives to ensure that the animal be spayed/neutered with sixty (60) days of the adoption. I understand that controlling the pet population is a paramount concern of (Rescue’s Name) and if I fail to have my animal spayed/neutered, I will promptly return the animal to (Rescue’s Name). I agree to keep the animal away from any unaltered dogs until after the alteration in completed. If I am knowingly or unknowingly adopting a pregnant female, I agree that the puppies of the pregnant female will be returned to (Rescue’s Name) as soon as practical so that (Rescue’s Name) can place them in forever homes.

Resources For Rescues