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Billionaire Philanthropist Surgeon has Pledged More Than $50-Million to Support Research into Pet Contraceptives

When I first heard of the concept of pet contraception, I had a Far Side visual of Fluffy, in the throes of passion, reaching for the condom in his wallet. Pet contraception got a boost in the arm recently when it was announced that billionaire philanthropist Gary Michelson, a California surgeon who invented spinal implants and who started the Found Animals Foundation, has pledged more than $50-million to support research into pet contraceptives and has promised to give $25-million to the inventor of a safe and effective injectable sterilant for cats and dogs. Michelson will fund not only the prize but also the research that goes into it.

Pushing 60, Michelson is childless, divorced and focused on work. But rather than surgery, his new passion is charity.

Michelson says he will give away every cent of his $2 billion fortune. He plans to use a scientific approach and innovation to solve the problem of unwanted pets. The HSUS estimates that animal shelters care for between 6 to 8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3 to 4 million are euthanized.

Michelson has three adopted dogs. He feels that adoption campaigns are an important but incomplete part of the solution. Right now he has four dozen ideas that he thinks are more business-savvy and self-perpetuating than solutions currently in use. Some of these ideas include paying for implantable microchips that will allow owners to reclaim lost dogs, or paying cat adopters to take two animals instead of one. Michelson’s Found Animals Foundation is setting up pilot projects in Los Angeles to test some of these ideas. His $50 million pledge has garnered the most media attention.

Here’s what the Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Report had to say:

Before you start in with the doggie jokes, it should be noted that Michelson is serious about the issue, which goes by the name of non-surgical sterilization research. He formed the nonprofit Found Animals Foundation in 2005 to use scientific and innovative thinking as part of the solution to pet overpopulation problems.

For the latest gift, he is partnering with the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs. They believe the $25 million Michelson Prize and the $50 million earmarked for research grants will initiate and maintain promising research in the field, according to the post.

Is there a better way to spend $75 million? Like on humans? I leave that to you. But the beauty of todays high-engagement philanthropy is that donors can spend their fortunes on whatever, er, pet cause they likeeven if the cause is pet contraception. What is more, Mr. Michelsons donation looks downright modest next to the $5 billion or more than the late Leona Helmsley left to the dogs.

So what do you think? Nut job or visionary?