Earlier this month, Macon City Councilwoman Nancy White proposed a mandatory spay and neuter ordinance that she hopes will pass in the city and county. Georgia is one of 34 states that require an animal being adopted from a public or private shelter to be spayed or neutered.
This community has been embroiled in animal welfare issues for some time now. The present shelter, located near the city’s landfill, has been closed on several occasions due to infestation and disease. Animal rights activist have rightly been concerned over the number of animals the shelter has had to put down, and there was an extensive search for new leadership. With the passage of the special purpose local option sales tax, a new $3 million shelter will be going up on county property near Fulton Mill Road. That SPLOST also kicked in the new service delivery agreement that transferred operation of Animal Control from the city to the county.
Unfortunately, White’s proposal, however complete, will not sail through council or the commission untouched. There remain some in our community who will have none of it. It is reminiscent of the late state Sen. Robert Brown’s 2000 proposal (SB 297) to increase the penalties for animal cruelty. What seemed on the surface a no-brainer turned into a major brouhaha. That proposal, while making animal cruelty a felony instead a misdemeanor was eviscerated otherwise. Before his death, Brown advocated to strengthen the law.
Some of that same illogical opposition will be heard in this spay and neuter debate. It will be difficult to argue against the facts that Bibb County has a large animal control problem. Stray dogs and feral cats are all over the place. Irresponsible owners let their animals roam as they please -- while at the same time -- others cringe at the number of animals the shelter has to euthanize.
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Some will oppose the ordinance simply because it requires action from pet owners. Others are opposed because they feel the procedure, even when done in the first five months of a pet’s life, actually puts the pet’s life in jeopardy. Male dog owners, in particular, feel some odd connection with their male dog when getting “fixed” is being considered. And there are those who are jealous that there are provisions in the law that allow animals in particular situations, service dogs, for example, to escape the vet’s blade.
White’s proposal is certainly worth approving. The facts are simple. We could build a shelter with several hundred cages and it would almost instantly be overcrowded, necessitating more euthanizations. The only answer to animal overpopulation is spaying and neutering, and if we have to create a law to make sure people do the right thing -- so be it.