Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

November 9, 2011

First reading of spay-neuter ordinance OK’d

PRINCETON — More than 30 animal advocates packed into the Mercer County Commission courtroom as commissioners approved a first reading of a new spay-neuter ordinance for the county Tuesday.

At the present time, the ordinance would require pet owners to alter any cat or dog more than 6 months old unless they pay a $50 fee to keep the animal unaltered, or if a licensed veterinarian states in writing the animal is medically unfit to undergo such a procedure, or if the animal is kept for less than 30 days a year in the county.

In order to qualify for an unaltered animal permit, owners must prove the permit is used for a proper purpose such as breeding, must have the pet examined regularly by a vet, have the pet housed properly, have the pet vaccinated annually, and not have any current violations of the animal code. If a person violates the unaltered animal permit, they will be fined $125 per violation.

Additionally, those wishing to breed animals must pay $30 per animal annually for the permit and cannot have any cruelty or animal neglect convictions. Breeders many not sell, adopt, barter or transfer offspring until the animal is at least 7-weeks-old and has received proper vaccinations. Breeders must also display their permits at an establishment selling animals or if requested. Breeders violating the rules in the ordinance will be fined $150 per each violation and could have their breeding permit’s revoked.

Animal Control Officer Stacy Shampo reported that 2,449 animals have been euthanized by the Mercer County Animal Shelter this year, down from 3,390 in 2010, 3,553 in 2009, and 3,533 in 2008.

“Thousands of animals are euthanized every year in Mercer County,” Shampo said. “I believe we should increase the permits on unaltered animals beyond the cost of spaying or neutering animal to make more of an effect.”

Shampo also informed the crowd of issues the shelter has with stray dogs and said acquiring a tranquilizer gun to subdue stray animals and a control officer with proper training to use it would cost a considerable amount of money.

Doris Irwin, RN, a sanitarian with the Mercer County Health Department, told the board she felt the ordinance is a good start but might not address all of the animal issues in the county.

“Many, if you pass this ordinance, will simply neuter their pets because it’s the right thing to do,” Irwin said. “All laws depend on voluntary compliance on some level. It will, however, only have a mild effect on pet population numbers. It will do little to stop the seasonal surges, which lead to the need to euthanize many animals. We need to help support he neutering of pets because having pets neutered can be expensive. The New Hampshire model reduces euthanization by 77 percent. It works targeting low-income pet owners to provide low-cost spay and neutering, thereby cutting off the source of all of these unwanted pets that are being dropped off on us all.”

Bob Carter said he felt the fees in the proposed ordinance should be increased.

“Let’s up the breeding permit fee,” he said. “People who breed animals get a lot of money for it and we should up that fee considering that.”

Mike Thornhill said the spay-neuter ordinance would not address the issue of stray dogs and feral cats in the area.

“You are not addressing the whole issue,” he said. “There are a lot of stray dogs and feral cats wandering around. You need to do something with them. How are you going to enforce this law without knocking on doors?”

Cheryl Young also said the commission should look into requiring veterinary examinations for animals used to breed.

“There is nothing in there on whether or not a veterinarian should determine if an animal should breed,” Young said. “A lot of breeders produce unhealthy animals. A vet needs to be involved. The ordinance also allows for two litters a year, three if one has to be ‘euthanized.’ If a litter has to be euthanized, that animal should not be breeding, and no animal should have more than one litter a year.”

Michelle Keatley said lowering the cost of pet licenses for animals that are spayed or neutered could help the situation.

“A lot of areas require vets to provide a certificate that the animal has been spayed or neutered in exchange for a lowered pet permit cost,” Keatley said. “Also, some areas have reduced dog licenses for animals with their rabies shots. Other areas increase the cost of an animal permit if the animal is intact. This money could go into the fund to hire a new animal control officer.”

Commissioner Mike Vinciguerra said the funds from the ordinance would go to fund the animal shelter and said the commission would look into hiring an additional animal control officer if additional funds could be found in the county budget. Commissioner Jay Mills also added the county was looking into writing a vicious dog ordinance as well.

Additionally, the commission approved $2,893 to the Cumberland Road Industrial Park and $26,921 to the Eads Mill-Unity Road Water Project, $5,000 to the Children’s Home Society, $5,500 to the Mercer County Clerk’s Office, $17,329.70 to for energy efficiency upgrades to the courthouse, $2,000 to the Bluefield Holiday of Lights, $1,000 to the Mercer County Humane Society, and $8,489.50 to the Green Valley-Glenwood Public Service Department for a water extension in Ceres Hollow.

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com

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