Members of Macon City Councils Public Safety Committee on Monday tabled a proposed spay/neutering ordinance proposed by Councilwoman Nancy White.
Committee members Virgil Watkins, Frank Tompkins and Henry Gibson voted in favor of tabling the ordinance, while White and Larry Schlesinger voted against putting off a committee vote.
White wants an ordinance that would require city residents to have their animals spayed or neutered to help control the large number of stray dogs and cats in the community.
She noted other cities and states are in the process of adopting similar measures that would help curb the number of stray animals that are killed in animal shelters. She wants her ordinance to be passed in conjunction with a similar one from the Bibb County Commission.
It costs the taxpayers $300 per animal for every animal thats impounded, she said.
Its becoming more and more prevalent across the U.S.A.
Gibson and City Council President James Timley said they oppose such an ordinance, saying it unfairly targets low-income families with pets who cant afford to pay for the procedure.
They also questioned how the ordinance would be enforced if it was passed, noting that other laws pertaining to animals -- such as leash laws and inoculations -- arent enforced now.
(The city doesnt) have any authority over new (animal) laws because of the service delivery strategy, Gibson said. Its up to the county. In July, Bibb County took over animal control functions previously handled by Macon.
Gibson said he is a responsible pet owner that keeps a close eye on his two dogs, neither of which has been spayed.
Youre asking people to be your eyes and ears, he said. Thats going to create turmoil in neighborhoods. ... We do need to do something about (animal) populations, but (the ordinance) is not the answer.
Timley echoed Gibsons arguments.
I find the whole legislation to be ill-advised, he said. It doesnt consider everybody in the community. ... You shouldnt punish people simply because they dont have the funds (to spay or neuter their pet).
Bibb County Animal Welfare Director Sarah Tenon told council members the shelter has several programs in place to help defray the costs of spaying and neutering. She noted that several local animal rescue organizations have programs to help families who cant afford spay/neuter costs, and the county itself was awarded a grant from PetSmart earlier this year to help with the costs of controlling the animal population.
Tenon said the ordinance isnt designed to seek out residents who havent had their animals fixed. She compared violators to people who broke speed limits.
They would only face fines, she said, if they were caught breaking the law.
Tenon said the Animal Welfare Department is instead focusing its efforts on educating the public about why pets should be altered.
She noted that about 2,300 animals were euthanized last year in Macon and Bibb County because of animal overpopulation.
Other council members expressed the need to have such an ordinance but said this specific ordinance had a lot of holes that need fixing before they would approve it.
White said she wasnt too upset Monday that the proposed ordiance was tabled.
I guess Im a little disappointed but not surprised, she said. I knew it would be controversial. ... It has significant support with the county commissioners. ... Its great that were having a public dialogue about it.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.