Spaying or neutering dogs and cats will be mandatory in Macon, with some specific exceptions, under an ordinance City Council passed 8-5 Tuesday with two members absent.
The ordinance, sponsored by Councilwoman Nancy White, resembled one she withdrew in 2012; and Tuesday night she introduced a floor amendment to allay some concerns that had been raised in committee debate.
The approved version sets a deadline of July 1, 2014, for dogs and cats over the age of 6 months within city limits to be spayed or neutered. For $10, some dogs and cats can get unaltered animal permits: police dogs, designated breeders, service dogs, rescue dogs, herding dogs, dogs or cats with a certified health reason, those boarded in kennels, and show animals. But all those with such permits must be microchipped, the ordinance says.
Animals in the city less than four months of the year, or kept in a recognized shelter, are exempt. All breeders must get breeding permits, with that cost to be set by the Animal Welfare director.
Violators could be fined up to $500, but the floor amendment lets first-time violators off the hook if they comply within 60 days. And the Animal Welfare director can suspend enforcement if there arent adequate low-cost or free spay and neuter services available in Bibb County.
Animal welfare groups try hard, but theyve just been spinning their wheels without a way to really cut the stray population, White said. It costs about $300 to pick up and hold an animal in the shelter, more than spaying or neutering, she said.
About 70 people came to endorse or oppose the ordinance, some holding life-size stuffed dogs, others waving black crosses on Popsicle sticks for euthanized animals. Several spoke for or against the ordinance.
Gordon Turner of the Macon Kennel Club said mandatory spay/neuter punishes responsible pet owners and will only lead the irresponsible to dump their unaltered animals. But he was outweighed by many speakers in favor, including Sarah Tenon, Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare director.
I am here to ask you ... to vote yes for this ordinance, she said. The shelter euthanizes thousands of animals each year, the vast majority of those brought in, Tenon said. Animal Welfare staff have called many other communities with mandatory spay/neuter laws, and were unanimously told they work, she said.
Even getting to a final vote caused some argument on council, including over a failed attempt to send the ordinance back to committee.
In the end, council members Lauren Benedict, Ed DeFore, Tom Ellington, Charles Jones, Beverly K. Olson, Larry Schlesinger, Frank Tompkins and White voted for it.
Council members Henry Ficklin, Henry Gibson, Elaine Lucas, James Timley and Virgil Watkins voted no. Councilmen Rick Hutto and Lonnie Miley were absent.
The ordinance is approved, said Timley, president of council, as applause broke out from most of the onlookers.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.