Reducing high shelter admissions and shelter deaths is a priority for Augusta commissioners, as they helped give focus to the changes in the most recent draft of animal ordinances at the commission meeting Tuesday.
This is good news! They said they appreciate individuals and groups who rescue animals in need, at their own expense – not the county’s expense.
There are just a few issues that need to be tweaked and brought back to the commissioners for final approval. A plan for educating the public about responsible pet ownership and the importance of spaying and neutering is a big component that will need to be included.
THE REGISTERING or licensing of animals is done in many other cities in Georgia and many other states, and is documented to reduce strays and unwanted litters. In Augusta, it is recommended at a low rate of $5 or $10 for the lifetime of a pet that has been spayed or neutered. Unaltered animals would cost more, $25 annually, in hopes people will be more inclined to get their pets sterilized.
These fees are not meant to penalize pet owners, and will help get lost pets back to owners, as they will be entered into a large database. The funds generated by these fees will not be put into the general fund, but will go into a separate fund to assist in the spay/neuter program and promotion of its importance.
The cost of spay/neuter is the most cited reason for not doing it. There are low-cost clinics and some rescue organizations that offer vouchers, when their funding permits. We recommend that Augusta commissioners set up a special fund soon, with surplus monies from 2015, so that people with verifiably low income can apply for assistance to come into compliance with the new ordinance. If there is no assistance available, people will abandon and surrender their family pets. This defeats the goal of reducing strays and shelter deaths.
THAT’S WHAT Friends Are For Inc. is one such organization that offers vouchers to assist with the expense of spay/neuter and vaccines, when donated funds permit. So far this year, we have spent $51,000 on sterilization surgeries for 814 dogs and cats, and two rabbits, in the many counties of the CSRA. Our funds are very low right now, so we are encouraging people to make year-end, tax-deductible donations to help us continue with this lifesaving program. Please help keep pets in homes and be a part of the solution to the overpopulation and homelessness of our companion animals. That’s truly what friends are for.
(The writer – co-owner of the Village Deli in Augusta – is the founder and president of the animal rescue group That’s What Friends Are For.)