After researching a potential pet spay/neuter voucher program, members of a Columbia County advisory board and the county's Community and Emergency Services Committee decided not to implement the idea.
"We took a look at it, and the recommendation is that we don't move forward with it," said Pam Tucker, the director of the county's Emergency Services Division, which oversees the shelter.
State law requires anyone adopting an adult animal from the shelter to have it spayed or neutered within 30 days. Puppies and kittens must be spayed or neutered by the age of 6 months. The discussion of a voucher program rose from the idea of making spaying and neutering pets easier and more affordable for those adopting animals.
At a June 27 meeting, the Animal Care and Control advisory board decided providing vouchers would create more work involving more county departments with few benefits to residents or the county. Tucker said the program would create an unneeded "additional layer of bureaucracy,"
Committee members agreed Tuesday to forward the issue to the county commission's Aug. 5 agenda with a recommendation to reject it.
"There's no way to charge a flat-rate fee," Tucker said, explaining that the idea was for a $50 voucher or discount on spay/neuter services. "There are so many (variables)."
Typically, spay/neuter fees vary based on the type of animal, age, sex and size.
There is already one low-cost spay/neuter clinic in the county. Heartsong Animal Rescue has operated Heartsong Spay/Neuter Clinic for nearly two years. A second low-cost clinic, now being built by the Columbia County Humane Society, is expected to be open before the end of the year.
Tucker said those two clinics should be able to handle spaying and neutering needs at a minimal cost for people adopting animals from the shelter.
That way, people who adopt animals have the choice to spend their money at the clinics or with a private veterinarian. All the shelter requires is proof the animal has been spayed or neutered within 30 days of adoption. Only about 10 people a year fail to provide proof, and Tucker said she is content to let the court system handle those cases.
In addition, Tucker said, veterinarians have not expressed support for the proposed voucher program.
"This is a vet's livelihood," Tucker said. "I don't want anything we are doing to hurt the livelihood of the veterinarians."
Advisory board member Karen Gross, whose husband is a veterinarian and owns Care More Animal Hospital in Martinez, said he wouldn't support a voucher program because it would be a financial burden for his practice.
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