The bill is pitting animal-rights groups concerned about the 6 million uncared for animals destroyed yearly across the country against hunters in the home state of Waynesboro which bills itself as the Bird Dog Capital of the World.
Monday, the sponsor of the measure, House Bill 409, acknowledged it is likely to generate spirited opposition. But Rep. David Knight, R-Griffin, said he is trying to halt local prohibitions on law-abiding people before they can become a trend sweeping across the state.
“I don’t think it’s right of the government to say you’ve got to spay or neuter your dog to keep it,” said Knight, who also leads the effort to eliminate red tape as the chairman of the House Small Business Development & Job Creation Committee.
Knight introduced the bill Wednesday, and it’s now pending in the House State Planning & Community Affairs Committee. The committee hasn’t yet announced a hearing or scheduled a vote on it.
Knight, an avid hunter who shows off photos of his dog to House visitors on his iPad, said many outdoors enthusiasts care for their pets and treat them almost as a member of the family. Tethering, breeding and training are part of the sport.
However, the Atlanta Humane Society President William Shaheen has already been looking to hire a lobbyist to fight the bill.
“As an organization dedicated to animal welfare, Atlanta Humane Society has significant concerns related to proposed House Bill 409 pertaining to limiting the ability of local county and municipal government to enforce spay and neuter legislation,” he said. “As part of our ongoing effort to reduce the number of unwanted animals in the state of Georgia each year, Atlanta Humane Society provides low-cost spay and neuter services onsite at our clinic located on Howell Mill Road and to underserved communities outside of Metro Atlanta by utilizing a mobile surgical utility vehicle.”