The revised ordinances include requiring all pet owners to spay or neuter their animals unless they obtain an “unaltered animal permit;” strengthening laws to not allow tethering for an extended period of time; and requiring the licensing of all pets.
The changes did not include an agreement to relinquish unaltered animals to rescue organizations, which under a written contract the groups would spay and neuter the animals within 30 days, something at least five advisory board members have requested.
The Augusta Commission voted to move the ordinances to the July’s public safety committee meeting for discussion. The Commission also directed the county administrator to meet with Animal Services staff and advisory board members to find a middle ground on working with rescue groups.
“I just feel like we have to try this,” said Commissioner Mary Davis. “There has to be a solution somewhere.”
Georgia law requires public shelters sterilize animals before relinquishing them to rescue groups or private citizens, or enter into written contracts with the person or group acquiring the animal guaranteeing the new owner would spay or neuter the pet within a month.
AAS advisory board member Lorna Barrett said to lower the county’s 70 percent euthanasia rate, the shelter should enter into written contracts with rescue groups, similar to the arrangement at Columbia County Animal Services.
Although it takes in less than half the amount of animals as Augusta, Columbia County Animal Services has a 30 percent euthanasia rate and prosecutes all pet owners or rescues who do not comply with the spay and neuter requirement.
“The truth is there are several very reputable rescue organizations that have offered to take unaltered animals and save them from near certain deaths and their offers have been rejected,” Barrett said. “Doing something about this is certaintly better than what we’re doing now.”
AAS Director Sharon Broady said that arrangement has been unsuccessful in the past and would only perpetuate the animal overpopulation problem in the county. Broady said she does not have the budget or staff to ensure the rescue groups or new owners have complied with the law.
Willene Colvin, AAS advisory board member and Save the Animals Rescue Society founder, said the risk of noncompliance is low because rescue groups are held to the same standards as municipal shelters and could face a fine or loss of license if they do not follow through with sterilization.
Several Commissioners noted the importance of finding solutions to reduce euthanasia, but said more information about the contracts with rescue groups, as well as the impact of the revised ordinances, was needed.
“I’m glad we’re speaking for the animals because they can’t speak for themselves,” Commissioner Marion Williams said.