An ordinance to mandate the spaying or neutering of most dogs and cats passed the Public Safety Committee of Macon City Council by a 3-2 vote on Monday.
Committee Chairman Virgil Watkins and Councilman Henry Gibson were the two no votes. Its likely to come up for a full council vote in early October.
The ordinance sponsored by Councilwoman Nancy White includes exemptions for breeding, service animals for the disabled, search and rescue animals, animals belonging to part-time residents and a few others. Owners of any unaltered animal would have to buy a permit. Pets would also have to be tagged and microchipped, and violators could be fined up to $500, said Assistant City Attorney Christine Helms.
White sought unsuccessfully to pass a similar ordinance in December 2012.
We are attempting to do so again for a multitude of reasons, White said. She said local animal activist Edwina Barnes asked for it to be reconsidered before the city and county governments merge in January.
White said the shelter cant hold all the abandoned animals it receives, and one-time spaying or neutering costs less than housing and often euthanizing homeless animals.
Its not a panacea. Its not going to solve all the problems, she said. But other areas have had great success with mandatory spay/neuter laws, and a century of rounding up strays in Macon hasnt worked, White said.
Gibson characterized the proposed requirement as adding more responsibility on poor people who want to own an animal.
Several members of the community spoke for or against the ordinance. About 30 showed up.
Gordon Turner of the Macon Kennel Club said the proposal is overly burdensome to owners and animal control officers alike.
Barnes said pet owners will have time to get their animals fixed -- council members got a list of eight groups that perform low-cost or free spaying and neutering -- and that years of other efforts havent cut the stray-animal population.
We have tried everything, she said.
A related ordinance from Councilman Tom Ellington to require spaying and neutering of animals before theyre adopted from the shelter -- rather than accepting a promise to have it done later -- was withheld at Ellingtons request. He said Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare Director Sarah Tenon hasnt had a chance to read it, but hell bring it back when she has.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.