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Dec 2, 2009 11:45 AM by Ariel Wesler

Santa Barbara County passes spay and neuter ordinance

A controversial ordinance aimed at controlling the pet population in Santa Barbara county is now a done deal.

The county board of supervisors passed the ordinance 3-1. It requires all dogs and cats over six months old living in unincorporated areas of the county to be spayed or neutered. To help out, animal services is looking at ways to offer more low cost spay and neuter options.

Nearly half of all county shelter animals come from the Santa Maria valley.

"Somebody didn't get somebody fixed and here they are. . .our concern is the issue of animal abandonment," said Jill Tucker, executive director of the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society.

County leaders say the solution is more low cost spay and neuter options. The Santa Maria Valley Humane Society does about 1600 surgeries per year, but the demand greatly exceeds that.

"Scheduling is opening up for the month of January and we anticipate that month will be filled up within 3 days," Tucker said.

"We're hoping to open up some more spaces at our clinic and we also have a number of veterinarians that are willing to offer some space in their clinics," said Jan Glick, director of animal services for the county.

The low cost procedure runs between 40 and 100 dollars . . .hundreds less than at the vet. Owners can get a waiver from their vet, but will pay more for the license. Dogs and cats working on a ranch are also exempt.

"If you live out in the rural areas, I think you should just because your dogs are running loose," said Joseph Gillis a Santa Maria dog owner.

"If you're not a licensed breeder, you have no business having an intact animal," said Patricia Audette, a Santa Maria dog owner.

Right now, animals are coming in faster than they can be placed. The county hopes this ordinance will reduce pet overpopulation so shelters can find homes for the animals they already have.

The county plans to take a slow approach on enforcement.

"We plan to do a free license campaign for animals that have never been licensed," Glick said.

After that, the fine would be $250. The ordinance takes effect January 1.

The county plans to open a spay neuter hotline to offer more information on low cost resources available for pet owners.

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