Johnson City spay, neuter ordinance gains steam

Becky Campbell • Oct 14, 2013 at 9:01 PM

A city ordinance to hold pet owners accountable for their unspayed or unneutered animals is back in city discussions, and one city official said it’s just good sense.

Debbie Dobbs, executive director of the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter, said a spay/neuter ordnance is one way to curb the growing number of unwanted animals being born and then dropped off at the shelter. It would target owners whose unaltered animals get loose, which increases the chance of them impregnating a female or a female getting pregnant.

A similar ordinance failed in 2010, but Dobbs said those against it included breeders and showers, and they’re generally not the animal owners who would have any contact with Animal Control over such a law.

“Numerous breeders came forward against it,” she said. “If you have a (non-spayed or non-neutered) animal and we aren’t already out there on a complaint, we won’t even know.”

The ordinance would be designed to be used as part of complaints Animal Control receives about dogs running loose. There would be no door-to-door enforcement, Dobbs said.

At a recent Animal Control Board meeting, Dobbs told the board that the only time an unaltered male dog is adopted out or returned to its owner is if it is not fully developed.

Dobbs stressed the targets of such an ordinance are repeat offenders — dogs that are picked up numerous times and haven’t been spayed or neutered.

“If a dog is in the shelter, unspayed or neutered more than once in 12 months, it will be done at the owners’ expense” under the new ordinance, Dobbs said.

“I like the spay-neuter ordinance if it’s got teeth in it. If it’s enforceable, it will be more effective,” she told board members.

Board member Jenny Brock said the city shouldn’t have to build more space to house stray animals.

“We need to stop building capacity for irresponsible people. It’s taxpayer money,” Brock said, referring to pet owners who let their pets roam and breed freely, with some ultimately ending up at the shelter.

Last week, Dobbs said with the new shelter that’s planned for the city, there will be more room for animals to be held longer, which should increase the adoption rate.

“The longer we can hold them for people to come through and adopt them, the better,” Dobbs said.

Euthanasia is a necessary part of her job, but Dobbs said each animal is “held and loved on until the minute they go to sleep. We want them to know they are loved.

“It’s very emotional when it’s a healthy animal,” she said.

Press staff writer Tony Casey contributed to this article.

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