"All the city departments are suffering budget demands, but this should be the last thing that is cut, not the first."
But Ed Boks, chief of the Animal Services Department, defended his decision as driven by urgent economic necessity.
"This was a crisis situation," Boks said in an interview. "When the Titanic is sinking, you go and plug the holes first."
Retorted Councilman Richard Alarcon, who authored the city's spay/neuter law: "I wouldn't heed the advice of the captain of the Titanic any more than I trust Ed Boks in this regard.
"The truth is he did not inform the City Council on the cuts he was making. We thought it would be spread across the department and not devastate what is the strongest area of the budget."