Calling all out-of-work animal researchers (or, perhaps, monkey-testing UCLA scientists, looking for redemption):

L.A. billionaire Gary Michelsen is dangling $44 million in grants — and a $25 final prize — to those who accept his challenge to come up with a surgery-free way of neutering animals. Michelsen's generosity is born of the pity he feels for the “3-4 million animals euthanized each year in U.S. shelters,” according to today's prsser.

Hm. In light of this high-profile race to sterility, we'd like to offer Michelsen a prize of his own:

Undisputed titleholder as L.A.'s — and probably the world's — richest, and weirdest, pet obsessionado.

The bulging Michelson Prize & Grants program is being offered through the Found Animals Foundation, whose press officer tells us that competition is fierce for the grants. Of 150 applications since the 2008 starting gun, only 15 have been approved — whittling the $50 million grant fund down to (a still very bulging) $44 million.

“[Program directors] had said this is something that would take years to accomplish,” says the press officer. “They are being very conservative with who they choose.”

So no joke “kick Fido in the balls” applications, got it kids?

The incentive behind finding a way to mass-neuter, no surgery required, is that the easier and cheaper it is, the more likely pet owners and animal shelters will be to shut down their puppy-making machines. And, clearly, fewer overall pups means fewer dead pups, who have to be euthanized to make room in the shelters.

According to Found Animals:

Spay and neuter procedures require general anesthesia and an adequately equipped surgical facility, both of which create obstacles for pet owners such as high costs, transportation of animals and inherent risks of surgery. A single dose, non-surgical sterilant would be a more effective solution to defer cost and inconvenience for many pet owners, according to experts.

So effective, apparently, to be worth $75 million in Michelsen gold. (Not that he's exactly hurting for millions, reports Forbes, given his “$1.35 billion settlement between him and device giant Medtronic in 2004 after years of litigation over spinal surgery patents.” The Los Angeles resident currently sits at No. 290 in the Forbes 400. Not bad.)

So how are the Big 15 coming along, so far? Aimee Gilbreath, Found Animals director, is hopeful:

“What's even more exciting is that we're seeing proposals based on new technologies such as nanocontainers and gene silencing, meaning that researchers are applying cutting edge science to this problem,” she says in a statement.

We've just got one question. How are these ballin' researchers trying out different neutering methods without testing on live animals? Aka, without pissing off the same animal-activist circles who are undoubtedly backing this thing?


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