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Memphis City Council adopts neuter, spay law The Commercial Appeal

Memphis City Council adopts neuter, spay law
Ordinance exempts some dogs, cats
By Linda A. Moore
Posted September 29, 2010 at midnight

In legislation that moved Memphis into ranks with cities such as Denver and Los Angeles, the Memphis City Council approved a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for dogs and cats on Tuesday.

The new ordinance exempts service dogs, animals used by law enforcement, animals registered with approved organizations like the American Kennel Club and the Cat Fancier Association and those based on a veterinarian's recommendation that should not be altered for health reasons.

It also allows owners of fertile animals to pay for a one-time $200 permit to avoid the regulation.

Council members William Boyd and Kemp Conrad voted against final passage of the ordinance.

Sponsored by Councilman Shea Flinn, the ordinance is intended to be applied as a secondary offense, meaning violators will be charged only in conjunction with another violation.

The original ordinance would have exempted animals that weighed less than 30 pounds. It's those larger dogs that present a safety concern for the community, Flinn said.

Despite Flinn's objections, councilwoman Wanda Halbert proposed the removal of the 30-pound limitation, arguing that if the problem was about loose dogs and an overcrowded animal shelter, a fertile 10-pound dog is also a problem.

About 100 people, split evenly among those against and those in favor of the sterilization law, attended the council meeting.

"If you enforce the leash law, then the leash law will take animals off the street, reduce complaint calls and we'll end up with less animals at the shelter," said Donna Malone of Responsible Animal Owners of Tennessee, in opposition of the law.

Ordinance supporters argued that with about 16,000 animals euthanized in Memphis each year, a spay/neuter ordinance is a progressive solution to the problem.

"A considerably more effective and humane approach to those thousands of unwanted pets is to enact effective spay/neuter programing ... through a combination of education, legislation and the availability of surgical procedures," said Dr. Robert Egerman, president of the board of directors of the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County.

The ordinance was part of a trio of animal-related ordinances also approved by the council. One requires animals being kept on tie-outs or overhead cables to be spayed or neutered.

That original ordinance would have also required owners to also have a traditional or invisible fence, a portion that was killed because of the cost concerns.

The council also amended the aggressive/vicious dog laws, requiring the sterilization of dogs that have bitten once and been found running loose twice.
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