More than 4 million unwanted, abused or aggressive dogs and cats were euthanized last year in the United States. In Johnson City, more than 2,920 animals taken to the local shelter have been euthanized this year.
Most of these deaths would have been unnecessary had pet owners spayed or neutered their animals. If they had, many puppies and kittens would not end up in local animal shelters that are struggling to stretch the limited tax dollars they are given to deal with animal control issues.
Johnson City commissioners decided in 2010 to take a pass on an ordinance requiring pet owners in the city to have their animals spayed or neutered. Similar spay/neuter laws have proved successful in lowering the unwanted pet population of Asheville, N.C., and other communities in 30 states with similar ordinances.
Commissioners argued then there might be other ways to address the problem. Three years later, however, the problem persists.
One suggestion has been to step up public awareness of the issue. If only that were enough. Animal control officials and leaders of animal welfare organizations have spent years trying to educate local pet owners on the need to have their dogs and cats sterilized. The Washington County Humane Society is among a number of organizations that offer a low-cost spay/neuter program.
The message has reached some, but far too many pet owners have turned a deaf ear. As a result, animal shelters are faced with making heartbreaking life or death decisions every day.
Public education is not enough. It’s time to go after irresponsible pet owners in a way that is sure to get their attention — a mandatory spay/neuter law that reaches into their wallets.
We hope Johnson City commissioners will finally do the right thing — the humane thing — and move passage Thursday of an ordinance to hold pet owners accountable for their unspayed or unneutered animals.