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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  June 24, 2002


Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan

Animal Friendly License Plate Gets New Design

TRENTON - New Jersey's specialty license plate supporting the state's low cost spaying and neutering program has a new look that should be familiar to loyal readers of newspaper comic strips.

In its first redesign since its issuance in 1994, the Animal Friendly plate now features characters from New Jersey cartoonist Patrick McDonnell's popular comic strip Mutts

The strip, which currently appears in more than 450 newspapers worldwide and is distributed by King Features Syndicate, follows the adventures of a dog, Earl, and a cat, Mooch, who get their charm from acting more like people than pets. Earl and Mooch give readers a glimpse of the world from their point of view.

"The purchase of Animal Friendly license plates generates much needed support for our low cost spaying and neutering program," said Clifton R. Lacy, M.D., Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.

"Thanks to Mr. McDonnell's generous gift of his time and extraordinary talent, and the leadership of the Domestic Companion Animal Council, we have increased resources to reduce the proliferation of stray and unwanted pets in our state," the Commissioner added.

The Animal Friendly license plates cost $50 each with 80% used to reimburse veterinarians for spaying and neutering surgeries performed on licensed pets adopted from an eligible shelter, pound or non-profit animal adoption referral agency and pets owned by persons participating in certain public assistance programs. Other than occasional advertising projects, such as toll-plaza signs recently installed on the New Jersey Turnpike, all funds from the sale of the Animal Friendly plates go to veterinarians. No administrative costs are funded from license plate sales.

The state's low cost spaying and neutering program began in 1985, and to date has supported more than 150,000 surgeries. In SFY 2001, the program supported 11,853 surgeries and the average reimbursement per surgery was $86. Pet owners co-pay either $10 or $20 for their pet's surgery, depending on the family's income status. In addition to the license plate sales, the program receives financial support from a $3 fee on every non-neutered dog license issued in the state.

In the past eight years, more than 34,250 Animal Friendly plates have been sold resulting in $2.4 million in revenue for the spaying and neutering program. Funding from new plates and renewals (a $10 annual fee) now averages nearly $300,000 per year.

In addition to reducing the numbers of stray and unwanted pets, the low cost spaying and neutering program is also intended to reduce costs to municipalities and the non-profit humane agencies organized to care for these animals. The Department estimates the costs involved from pickup, impoundment, and euthanasia of stray dogs and cats is greater than $7 million annually.

New Jersey was the first state in the nation to aggressively address the pet overpopulation problem with an innovative statewide spaying and neutering program. Currently, 216 veterinary hospitals in New Jersey participate. Since the state initiated its program, there has been a 25% reduction in the number of dogs and cats impounded, and a 41% reduction in euthanasia at pounds and shelters.

The new Animal Friendly license plates featuring characters from Mutts are on sale now at all Motor Vehicle Services agencies, or can be ordered over the phone by calling 1-888-486-3339 (609-292-6500 from out of state) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Mr. McDonnell, who created Mutts in 1994, has won both critical acclaim for his comic strip and personal recognition for his philanthropic work on behalf of animal protection organizations. He has received the comic book industry's esteemed Harvey Award for "Best Syndicated Strip," the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award and "Best Comic Strip of the Year Award," and Germany's Max and Moritz "International Cartoonist of the Year" award.

In addition, Mr. McDonnell has twice received the Ark Trust's Genesis Award for outstanding contribution to animal protection by a cartoonist. A dedicated advocate for animal protection, he has worked with the Humane Society of the United States and the North Shore Animal League to create a special series of Mutts "Shelter Stories" strips to help raise awareness of the plight of animals in shelters and promote pet adoption. He also often partners with animal shelters and their mobile units to help local pets find homes during his book signing appearances across the country. In recognition of his many contributions to animal protection, the members of the Humane Society of the United States appointed Mr. McDonnell to serve on the organization's board of directors in 2000.

McDonnell and his wife, Karen, reside in New Jersey with their dog, Earl, and their cat, Meemow.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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