Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 7, 2013

Bill allows for counties to decide spay-neuter ordinance

By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — A bill allowing West Virginia’s counties to determine whether they want spay-neuter ordinances and determine the terms of those ordinances could be considered when the Legislature convenes in January 2014.

Animal advocates have been calling for the Mercer County Commission to institute a spay-neuter ordinance to curb the local homeless animal population. However, the commissioners have said at past public meetings that state law does not give county commissions the authority to do so.

“That would have to be changed at the state level,” said County Commissioner Gene Buckner, who often works with the Mercer County Animal Shelter.

There has been confusion about whether counties have the authority to enact spay-neuter ordinances, said Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer. County attorneys say counties do not have the authority while House attorneys say counties do have that ability.

To clear up this question, Gearheart has asked House attorneys to draft a new bill.

“It is a simple bill, and it would simply allow the counties to enact a spay-neuter ordinance,” he said.

The bill would allow each county to draft an ordinance that would meet local needs.

“In essence, this would not define any of the details, really,” Gearheart said of the legislation. “We would leave it up to the counties and let them do it in a manner which defines each counties’ needs, but it would very clearly allow them to do so (enact an ordinance) if they wish.”

The Legislature’s next session begins in January 2014.

“Since we’re drafting it now, it would be introduced very next in the next legislative session,” Gearheart said. “We will probably see the text by early fall. Four hundred and sixty bills are being drafted by one staff attorney. This is not going to be a real difficult bill. I don’t expect to have much difficulty with this, but we’ll see.”

Two local organizations offer pet owners help with spaying and neutering. One is the Mercer County Spay Association at 304-384-7195 and Second Chance for Cats at 304-324-0806.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com