Fix your pet or pay for a permit?
ADAM LYNN; The News Tribune
Published: October 28th, 2006 01:00 AM
Tacoma residents who own an unaltered dog or cat would be required to buy an annual breeders permit – whether they intend to breed their pet or not – under proposed changes to the city’s animal control ordinance.
The new fee would be in addition to the $55-per-animal charge they already pay.
City Councilwoman Julie Anderson is championing the revisions to the code, which are tentatively scheduled for a public hearing Nov. 24.
Anderson said this week that requiring pet owners to pay higher fees to keep unaltered animals should prompt more people to get their dogs and cats fixed. That would help curb what she called a serious pet overpopulation problem in the city.
“This basically states that having an unaltered animal is no longer a right or something you can just do,” she said. “I think of it as a ban on backyard breeding.”
Requiring almost all companion animals to be altered – called a mandatory spay-neuter program – also will help the Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County toward its goal of becoming a “no-kill” shelter by the end of 2008, she said.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Anderson said.
The Humane Society euthanized more than 2,400 healthy, adoptable pets in 2005, according to the organization’s Web site.
What the annual breeders permit in Tacoma would cost has not been determined.
“Our goal is to make it affordable so people comply,” Anderson said.
Cities and counties across the nation have implemented similar measures recently.
This summer, Los Angeles County began requiring people who live in the unincorporated area to get their dogs sterilized and microchipped or face a $1,000 fine. Albuquerque, N.M., put a mandatory spay-neuter law in place earlier this month.
Many national animal welfare organizations – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States among them – support such laws.
“Only by implementing widespread sterilization programs, only by spaying and neutering all companion animals, will we get a handle on pet overpopulation,” the Humane Society states in a fact sheet posted on its Web site.
Tom Sayre, a spokesman for the Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County, said his organization supports “the idea 100 percent” if enforcement issues are clarified.
But some organizations, including the American Kennel Club, oppose mandatory spay-neuter programs, saying they unfairly burden responsible breeders.
The organization sent letters and e-mails to its members in January when Virginia lawmakers proposed a mandatory spay-neuter program.
The letter called the effort “confusing, ineffective” legislation, and urged AKC members to “contact the bill sponsor and express your opposition.”
Jesse Taylor has been breeding and training Weimaraner dogs in Tacoma for more than 30 years.
Taylor said he supports most spay-neuter programs and said Tacoma’s current regulations – which charge the owners of unaltered dogs and cats more for pet licenses than those whose animals are fixed – “keep people who shouldn’t be breeding (animals) from breeding.”
But he said he worries that adding more fees will force many to take their breeding programs underground.
“Let’s face it, if they make it really hard, you’re going to have a lot more backyard and closet breeders who just aren’t going to pay the fee,” said Taylor, who has yet to see Anderson’s proposal. “If it’s a punishment-type penalty, I’m against it. There is a place for reputable breeders and good breeders in this world.”
The new rules also call for any dog or cat caught running loose by animal control officers to be spayed or neutered, even on a first offense.
working toward no-kill shelter.
City Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg cautioned at an August meeting of the council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee that such provisions “may cause a significant problem” among the owners and breeders of show dogs, according to minutes of the meeting.
Such folks “generate a significant amount of income” from their dogs and could file suit against the city, Ladenburg said.
Anderson said she is sensitive to the property-rights issues involved but is convinced that something must be done to “reduce the pipeline” of unwanted pets winding up at the Humane Society.
The mandatory spay-neuter rules are part of a substantial revision of the animal control ordinance under consideration by the City Council.
The proposed changes also refine regulations regarding dangerous dogs, prohibit residents from keeping livestock or poultry within the city (aside from the Metro Parks District, circuses and animal haulers), create new rules for animal day-care facilities and add regulations on animal noise, among other things.
The proposal also contains a section titled “Problem Pet Owners,” which defines what a problem pet owner would be – basically, someone who commits multiple violations of the code – and the punishments he or she would face: revocation of all pet licenses.
It’s unlikely the City Council will vote on the proposed changes until early next year.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644