Spay-neuter ordinance likely for Macon-Bibb County

mstucka@macon.comOctober 2, 2013 

Macon’s government will cease to exist long before the city’s new spay-neuter ordinance for cats and dogs results in the first citation, but Tuesday’s vote is likely to establish policy for the new Macon-Bibb County government.

That’s drawing cheers from supporters and worries from opponents, who say the law is well-intentioned but will cause more problems than it solves.

In discussions Wednesday, the Laws Committee of the group working to consolidate government said the new Macon ordinance could be considered in a set of ordinances that will be recommended, and likely adopted, by the new Macon-Bibb County government when it’s launched in January.

However, some of the bill’s sponsors -- Macon City Council members Nancy White and Larry Schlesinger -- said they expect the new ordinance will carry over into the new government if Macon Mayor Robert Reichert signs the bill.

The Macon ordinance requires most dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered by July 2014. If the animal isn’t six months old by that date, it would be required to be altered when it reaches that age.

For $10, some dogs and cats can get a special tag allowing them to remain unaltered and still be in compliance. Those animals include police dogs, those designated for breeding, 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.

Sarah Tenon, director of the Bibb County animal shelter, said she didn’t know when the ordinance would take effect. She said enforcement would be focused on repeat violators. The ordinance says violators would be able to get their first citation waived if they get their animals fixed within 60 days. Animal Welfare Department officers will give first-time violators a list of low-cost spay and neuter programs, and repeat violators could face a fine up to $500.

Tenon said Animal Welfare largely picks up unaltered animals. At least 99 of every 100 animals picked up are able to breed, she said.

“We see occasionally animals that come into the shelter that have already been altered,” she said. “And when I say occasionally, I mean two or three in a month. ... In a typical month, we typically take in 300 or 400 (animals).”

Tenon said the ordinance will make a big dent in Bibb County’s animal overpopulation, which will reduce the number of animals that get euthanized.

Opponents of the ordinance said Wednesday they support efforts to educate residents about the value of spaying and neutering, with access to free or low-cost programs. But Phyllis Pierce, president of the Macon Kennel Club, said the ordinance has dissuaded her from moving from Warner Robins to build a home in Bibb County.

“It’s really a slap in the face for people like us who do the right thing,” with carefully controlled rounds of breeding, said Pierce, a retired biology teacher who breeds Australian shepherds.

Gordon Turner, a past president of the Macon Kennel Club who trains dogs, said breeders are going to have to buy separate licenses to have dogs, licenses for unaltered dogs and licenses to breed dogs, all of which result in too much annual paperwork and fees.

“There is just a lot in there that’s burdensome to the public and financially draining to the public, and aren’t necessarily effective” to stopping animal overpopulation, Turner said.

Schlesinger said the ordinance is not “a silver bullet that’s immediately going to affect a cure.” However, he said, fewer pregnant animals ultimately will lower the level of unwanted pets.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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