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County may consider spay/neuter ordinance

In an effort to target repeat offenders, members of the Animal Control Board have submitted a proposed spay/neuter ordinance for consideration during the Oct. 17 meeting of the Johnson City Board of Commissioners.
City commissioners deferred voting on a second reading of a spay/neuter ordinance in 2010 until other options for controlling the city’s pet population could be explored.
“We hoped if it passed in Johnson City, we could take it to the county,” Shelter Director Debbie Dobbs said.
The same approach will be followed with this attempt.
Assistance, education and rescue organizations are the current methods used to promote spay/neuter services, according to Dobbs.
While effective, she said during the Oct. 1 meeting of the ACB that an ordinance would give more teeth to the efforts.
“Repeat offenders, the violators of city codes, are the ones we want to get,” Dobbs said, referring to owners whose animals are brought to the shelter on a regular basis.
The proposed ordinance would require an animal be spayed or neutered if it is impounded more than once in a year. The long-terms goals are more responsible pet owners and fewer dogs running at large that are able to create unwanted litters.
Dobbs said the proposal considered during 2010 failed largely because of a misunderstanding that officers would be going door-to-door to confirm animals had been altered. Other than repeat offenders, compliance would only be confirmed when animal control officers respond to a complaint.
“Where was the push back (in 2010)?” City and County Commissioner David Tomita asked.
According to Dobbs, the objections came from breeders and those who show dogs, groups that have a lot of pull in the voting.
In 2009, the State of Tennessee enacted a Commercial Breeder Act. The act defines a commercial breeder as “any person who possesses or maintains, under the person’s immediate control, 20 or more unsterilized adult female dogs or cats in this state for the purpose of selling the offspring as companion animals.”
While the breeders are subject to requirements such as licenses and inspections under the act, they are exempt from spay/neuter ordinances. This act will expire June 30, 2014.
ACB Chair and Johnson City Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin asked if it would be realistic to expect a drop in the number of animals euthanized if an ordinance were enacted.
“It’s hard to tell when people won’t even pay $30 to get their dog back and tell us to find it a home,” Dobbs said.
Van Brocklin said any improvement, even if incrementally, would be worthwhile and requested the item be placed on the agenda.
Dobbs worked with Staff Attorney Jim Epps and submitted the proposed ordinance late last week.
Washington County began drafting an animal regulation policy earlier in the year, but efforts have since lagged.
At the request of the Public Safety Committee, former county attorney John Rambo prepared an 18-page resolution regulating the care and control of animals within county limits. During the January meeting, committee members voted to table a decision on a recommendation until the next meeting to allow committee members time to review the resolution. The resolution has yet to be discussed again during a meeting.