Bibb County commissioners Tuesday approved in a 4-1 vote a spay and neuter ordinance similar to the one the Macon City Council passed two weeks ago.
Commissioner Gary Bechtel was the lone dissenting vote, saying the ordinance infringed too much on individual rights of pet owners.
During the commissions Animal Welfare Committee meeting Tuesday morning, committee Chairman Lonzy Edwards voiced his displeasure with some of the language in the city ordinance. County attorneys worked on revisions during the afternoon before the commission approved it Tuesday night.
The legislation, which closely mirrors the city version, wont go into effect until the new consolidated government takes over. Edwards said the legislation needed to be approved by Tuesday in order to be reviewed by the University of Georgias Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which is merging the current city and county ordinances into one unified code.
The ordinance covers sterilization and annual registration of animals in the county, and its designed to reduce unintended breeding that has caused pet overpopulation. Pet owners would only be exempt from having their animals sterilized if they have an unaltered pet permit issued by the Animal Welfare Department.
Under the county ordinance, unaltered pet permits will cost $10 annually or $100 for a lifetime permit for the animal. Owners would have to have proof that their animals have identification microchips before the permit would be issued.
Pet owners who register their animals also will be required to show proof of a rabies vaccination.
During the morning session, commissioners also expressed concerns that Animal Welfare Director Sarah Tenons staff is too small to enforce the added regulations, with only four officers to patrol the entire county. Commissioners said they worried the new ordinances would set up Animal Welfare to fail because it doesnt have the manpower to enforce all the regulations.
Steve Layson, the countys chief administrative officer, noted that during budget hearings earlier this year, commissioners delayed the hiring of four additional officers for the department until the completion of the new animal shelter on Fulton Mill Road, which is scheduled to open in late 2014. Edwards said commissioners may revisit the issue to see if they can hire additional officers before then.
Tenon told commissioners Tuesday that the city ordinance used language that was adapted from other, similar ordinances from cities and counties across Georgia.
Tenon said the number of abandoned pets has increased across the county because the shelter only accepts owner surrenders when there is room for the animals. Even then, she said, her staff tries to encourage the pet owners to surrender their animals to one of the local rescue organizations in town.
In other county business Tuesday:
The Lake Tobesofkee Committee approved moving the Workers Memorial Monument from Central City Park to Arrowhead Park. The committee also approved allowing the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission to hold a 40th anniversary celebration at Sandy Beach Park. Commissioners approved the sale of beer at the event, but only as part of the ticket price to attend.
The committee also approved renaming the fishing area at Tobesofkee in memory of Macon-Bibb County firefighter Michael DeWayne Jones, who died in 2011 while rescuing three children.
Commissioners said they would ask the legislative delegation to approve naming the Interstate 475 interchange at Zebulon Road for U.S. Army Maj. Wallace Cole Hogan Jr. of Macon, who was killed while serving at the Pentagon during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.