Pinellas to explore mandatory pet spaying and neutering
Tens of thousands of unwanted cats and dogs wound up in animal shelters in Pinellas County last year.
More than 6,500 were killed with a lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital after being deemed unadoptable because of health or behavioral issues.
Animal activists say the deaths are often the result of irresponsible owners who fail to spay and neuter their pets, resulting in unwanted puppies and kittens.
Now, county leaders are considering making Pinellas just one of a handful of Florida communities that require pet owners to spay or neuter their animals.
At a meeting Tuesday, commissioners asked for a workshop on a mandatory program, which previous boards declined to adopt because of concerns about how it would be enforced. This time, though, there seems to be strong support to move forward from several commissioners.
“In my opinion, it’s time we do it,” said Commissioner Susan Latvala. “Making it a policy helps with this situation; it won’t solve the problem completely.”
The issue was raised by half a dozen supporters of mandatory spaying and neutering, who cited the success of similar programs in Las Vegas and Volusia County that have resulted in fewer animals ending up in shelters and fewer euthanized.
“There is no place to go except for death row here,” said Andrea Wells, a member of the League of Humane Voters, an animal welfare group. “We cannot adopt our way out of this mess.”
The Volusia County program requires the owners of cats or dogs older than six months have their pet spayed or neutered. Exceptions are made for owners who show or breed their animals or for pets certified by a veterinary as medically unfit to undergo the procedure. Law enforcement animals and service dogs are also exempt.
In Las Vegas, owners who fail to comply with the ordinance face a $225 fine for a first offense. Second and third offenses rise to $500 and $1,000, respectively.
County staff members are evaluating mandatory programs to see if they work, said Maureen Freaney, Pinellas’ interim animal services director.
“It’s like seatbelts: Until you mandate it, people don’t follow it,” she said.
Enforcing such an ordinance could be difficult and could deter people from licensing their pets, Freaney said.
No date has yet been set for a workshop.