Paying People to Fix Their Pets

A few years back, a Freakonomics reader named Stephanie Downs wrote in with an idea: bribing people (with cash, gift certificates etc.) to spay or neuter their pets. “I found your story about the [Israeli] daycares very interesting,” she wrote. “I want to do the research upfront on what will motivate people instead of spending years finding the right formula.” Stephanie recently launched the FIXIT Foundation, dedicated to “finding ways to increase interest in spay/neuter programs.” As she told us in a recent e-mail: “By January of this year we had agreement from the shelter in St. Croix to participate in the program and set ourselves up on island not long after. This summer we surveyed 2 percent of the island on their perception of spay/neuter and what if any incentives would bring them around to the idea. Last month we completed an animal census to calculate the number of animals on island, and this month we will be doing message testing in survey environments. That data will be used to select the best messages to launch live in January.” We look forward to finding out what kind of incentives Stephanie finds effective – or if, perhaps, they somehow backfire. [%comments]

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  1. Jack of spayeds. says:

    If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

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  2. Kate says:

    I think it’s usually the cost associated with fixing an animal that is what stops people from doing it.

    This is why I like to adopt pets from shelters; the shelter I regularly visit asks for a $125 fee for adoption and that includes neutering, a full array of shots, health exam, and microchipping. That’s a bargain to me.

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  3. Joe says:

    Anything that increases spay/neuter is good. Here in Mexico, almost no one gets their pets spayed or neutered, so it’s no surprise the streets are full of strays. For the little it costs, it’s astonishing this remains a problem.

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  4. Jimbino says:

    Spay/neutering cats does nothing to keep the numbers down, since cats are territorial. That means the same property invasions, songbird slaughter and zoonoses are around after all that TNR expense.

    The solution to the cat problem is to fine, punish and neuter animal owners and kill the cats or use them for medical research, fertilizer and fuel.

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  5. jes says:

    Fascinating idea! I think the “consequence” might be that people will bring in strays or their neighbors’ pets to get more gift certificates or rewards (if they’re good enough) which would probably be a positive outcome.

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  6. Eric M. Jones says:

    Spay and neuter the owners.

    There are places where the spaying and neutering of pets is done by non-veterinarians but supervised by vets. This is an efficient use of labor to do the job.

    Before posing a disparaging note on this, remember that farmers have done this for years.

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  7. Steve says:

    A friend of mine sold her pure bred Great Dane pups for $75, with a $75 refund if the new owner got the pup spayed or neutered.

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  8. Nina says:

    #3 (@Joe), here in Brazil the lack of spaying programs is also a huge problem. There are hundreds of thousands of stray pets, and owners who abandon their pets, etc. If Stephanie can actually pinpoint an incentive that appeals to all, and that incentive can be copied around the world, this would be absolutely wonderful news.

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