Efforts to control the number of stray and unwanted pets in Macon and Bibb County got a shot in the arm with Fridays announcement of a $100,000 spay-neuter grant.
The two-year grant, from PetSmart Charities Inc., aims to focus on educating the community about responsible pet ownership and the importance of spaying and neutering, said Kari Kitchens, grant resources administrator for Bibb County.
While most of the grant will be used for education, a portion of the money will pay for a free spay-neuter event available for dogs in the 31201 zip code.
PetSmart identified that zip code as having the biggest dog overpopulation problem in Bibb County, Kitchens said. That zip code encompasses parts of downtown and the Pleasant Hill and College Hill neighborhoods.
Over the two-year span, the county hopes to spay or neuter up to 1,400 animals.
Its a pilot project, she said. Well start there and see how successful we are.
The county sought the grant at the suggestion of Deborah Biggs, who ran the countys shelter for two months during the summer. Biggs secured a similar grant at a previous job in Florida.
Lisa Gilbert, president of animal advocacy group Central Georgia CARES, said the grant will be a godsend in a community where roughly 70 percent of the animals at the countys shelter are killed.
We have an enormous problem, and its a continuous problem, Gilbert said. Spaying and neutering is the only way were going to get a handle on this.
As an example, Gilbert said one unspayed female cat who has three litters of kittens per year with an average of four kittens per litter can cause dramatic problems quickly. As the original cats continues to have litters, her kittens begin having kittens. And by year four, she said, there could be thousands of animals.
Gilbert said she hopes the $100,000 grant will create a ton of awareness and cause other organizations and businesses to offer to match some of the money.
This (grant) will help get the ball rolling, she said.
Gilbert said there is a need for free or low-cost spay-neuter events here. Central Georgia CARES (which has held three in the past two years) and Susan Helton, who works with the Atlanta Humane Societys spay-neuter mobile clinic, have periodically offered low-cost clinics in Macon.
You wouldnt believe the people who have come up to me (at these events) in tears, saying Thank God. I didnt have the money to get my animal fixed. People cant always afford it, especially when theyre struggling.
Lucia Carr, vice president of the Monroe County-based rescue group Save A Pet, said Friday she is happy to hear about the grant, especially the educational component.
Until we convince members of our community who are pet owners that it is their responsibility to have their dogs and cats spayed and neutered, we will continue to have an overpopulation problem in Middle Georgia, she said.
More information about the grant will be provided by county officials at a news conference at 9 a.m. Monday at the animal shelter at 1010 11th St. in Macon.
To contact writer Andy M. Drury, call 744-4477. To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.