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County narrowly OKs panel to explore spay/neuter policy

By David Bodenheimer
The Dispatch

Published: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 10:06 p.m.


In an effort to lower the population at the Davidson County Animal Shelter, the Davidson County Board of Commissioners narrowly approved a motion Tuesday night from Commissioner Fred McClure to reconvene a committee to explore the implementation of a county spay and neuter policy


The board voted 4-3 to revisit the idea of such an ordinance for the first time since it was defeated in 2007. Commissioners Billy Joe Kepley, Larry Potts and Sam Watford all voted against the motion. Watford, Kepley and Potts cited concerns of enforcement and expense as reasons not to see a committee recalled on the matter


"That horse was killed in a hurry," Kepley said of the issue when it was shot down by a 5-2 vote four years ago


In 2006, commissioners charged a five-member committee to weigh pros and cons of such an ordinance but after hearing from residents affiliated with hunting and breeding organizations, commissioners opted not to enact a spay and neuter policy


In reconvening a committee, McClure said he would like to see representation from hunters and breeders and said exceptions would be included in any ordinance moving forward. McClure said ordinances in other counties have reduced animal population numbers at shelters by as much as half. Thousands of animals are brought to the animal shelter each year.


The board will start the process of assembling the committee but will need additional approval from commissioners when the committee is formed. McClure said he hopes to write an ordinance to hold citizens accountable for responsible animal care.


"It would be a very open process," McClure said. "If in fact it moves forward, we would draft the ordinance, gather a consensus of opinion and then we would have a public hearing. People who let their animals run loose and don't take care of them we're responsible for making sure people who are not responsible for their animal are paying for it."


Specifics of enforcement if a proposed ordinance were not discussed Tuesday night. In 2007, the county was considering a law forcing all pet owners to spay or neuter their animals. Those wishing to keep their pets unaltered would have been required to obtain a $100 permit for each animal, slightly above the average charge for spay/neuter procedures at county animal clinics.


 The new ordinance would have applied to all animals over 6 months old. Any pet owner found in violation would have been given a 60-day period to sterilize their pet instead of having to pay the fine


McClure's motion to explore another spay and neuter policy comes two weeks after commissioners were verbally lambasted over the county's continued use of the gas chamber as a form of euthanasia at the county animal shelter.


A crowd of nearly 75 showed up for Tuesday's meeting but only five people spoke to commissioners encouraging them to stop the practice. Unlike commissioners' Aug. 9 meeting, the crowd refrained from outbursts and interruptions Tuesday night and kept their comments over the gas chamber from becoming personal attacks against county board members.


Commissioners didn't respond to any of the speakers following the board's public address period of the meeting but Watford thanked everyone for speaking and said commissioners were listening to the cries of the residents and were trying to act accordingly to those complaints.


David Bodenheimer can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 227, or at david.bodenheimer@the-dispatch.com.

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