The Macon City Council has passed an ordinance requiring that pet owners spay or neuter dogs and cats, in an effort to reduce what all sides agree is an appallingly high number of stray animals roaming the streets.
Councilors adopted the measure in a 8-5 vote Tuesday evening, 10 months after a similar measure was dead on arrival.
Violators will face a fine up to $500. People such as breeders who want to keep their animals intact will be able to do so by paying for an extra license.
Council chambers were packed with supporters and a smaller number of opponents as councilors engaged in contentious debate.
"We are not the problem," said Gordon Turner of the Macon Kennel Club who attended to speak against the ordinance.
"We are not the cause of the horrible things the rescue groups see being done to animals," Gordon said. "So why must we be punished financially and with onerous licensing and record keeping requirements?"
Retired Mercer University and Fort Valley State biology professor Linda Smith countered the argument that the new law will be a financial hardship.
"When Fluffy or Spot is pregnant once again, regardless of whether this happens by accident, or neglect, or ignorance it doesn’t matter. Who pays for it? I do. You do," Smith said, her voice booming.
The future of the ordinance after Macon consolidates with Bibb County in two months is unclear. As written, it does not take effect until July 1.
There are a couple of ways the law could survive that transition, said Telegraph of Macon city council reporter Jim Gaines.
"Macon-Bibb Animal Control has an agreement with the city that it will enforce city statues within the city but not out in the county," Gaines said. "That agreement could continue even after consolidation, even though city limits will officially disappear at that point."
Another possibility, Gaines said, is that the new Macon-Bibb County Commission could decide to adopt the ordinance county-wide.