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New Blackfoot ordinance requiring pets older than 6 months to be spayed or neutered getting mixed reactions

Courtesy Blackfoot Animal Shelter Facebook page
BLACKFOOT — The city of Blackfoot recently enacted an ordinance that makes it illegal to own a dog or cat over the age of six months if it hasn’t been spayed or neutered.
Ordinance 6-2-24, which was modeled after a similar ordinance in Boise, reads, “No person shall own, harbor or keep within city limits a dog or cat that is over the age of six months which has not been spayed or neutered.”
Blackfoot City Council member Jan Simpson, who proposed the ordinance, says the purpose of it is not to cause hardship on pet owners, but to limit the number of stray animals in town.
“We just don’t need more dogs. A lot of these dogs will end up back in the shelter and then it is the city’s problem. It costs the city a lot of money to keep the shelter going,” Simpson explains.
But enforcing the ordinance does pose some challenges. Simpson says the city doesn’t have the manpower to go door-to-door checking everybody’s pets.
“I highly doubt that people are going to call the animal control and say their neighbor has a dog that isn’t neutered,” Simpson says. “It’s mostly if the animal gets taken to the shelter that they (the owner) would be fined.”
According to the ordinance, if an unaltered pet is picked up by animal control, the owner will need to pay $250 to bail them out – $200 of which can be reimbursed if the owner spays or neuters their animal within 10 days.
The Blackfoot Animal Shelter recently praised the ordinance in a post on Facebook, saying in part, “Finally Blackfoot is making a stand!!! Thank you to Blackfoot Mayor, Marc Carroll and the City Council for passing the Mandatory Spay and Neuter ordinance. This has been needed for many years. Overpopulation of both dogs and cats continues to be a huge problem.“
The post triggered nearly 300 reactions and over 160 comments, some praising the ordinance and others condemning it as “government overreach.”
One commenter said, “Once again, another law that punishes the good/responsible people because selfish idiots don’t care about being a caring, responsible citizen … not like these people are really going to follow this law … and now good citizens have to feel like criminals if they don’t follow this.”
Another asked, “What happens when they spay/neuter someone’s $5,000 purebred, rare-breed dog that gets out because the back door didn’t latch when the kids were running in and out of the house? For responsible breeders, it could be a dog that could potentially earn anywhere from $5,000-$25,000 worth of income for that family every year.”
Amanda Cevering, who works at the shelter, spoke with in order to clear up some frequently asked questions and concerns.
Cevering says the ordinance does have certain exemptions, including exempting responsible breeders who have gotten a kennel license. It also exempts those just passing through town and residents who want to get a health exemption from their veterinarian.
Dr. Tony Parsons, veterinarian for the Blackfoot Animal Clinic, says his clinic would be willing to issue health exemptions for certain breeds up to 2-years of age.
“There aren’t many health benefits to leaving an animal intact after that age,” explained Parsons. “If you remove the reproductive organs, there is no risk in it turning into cancer. The health benefits of less cancer, less aggressive behavior — females can get a uterine infection. I don’t think there is a reason to have a health exemption past then.”

This boy is the proud owner of a new dog from the Blackfoot Animal Shelter. | Blackfoot Animal Shelter Facebook page

Parsons says his clinic is currently 10-14 days out for scheduling spays and neuters, which might put some folks in a tough spot trying to get their animal fixed. But Cevering says the shelter is wiling to work with people honestly trying to care for their animals.
The cost to spay or neuter an animal is another concern. It costs an average of $120-140 to spay or neuter a cat or dog in Blackfoot. Simpson says the council discussed the cost, but came to the conclusion that this was still the way to go.
“Here’s the deal — if people are going to have pets, they need to be responsible pet owners and part of that responsibility is being able to afford to get the pet spayed or neutered. That’s just kind of the bottom line. If you can’t afford that, then you probably shouldn’t have a pet,” says Simpson.
Both Cevering and Simpson acknowledge several people who already own pets have recently been hit with financial uncertainty. In those cases, there are low cost vouchers available at the Bingham County Humane Society. The vouchers are good for a spay or neuter of a cat at any age — or any dogs under a year old.
Jennifer Andrew works at the Humane Society. She says while other voucher programs have a limit on how many vouchers they issue, the Humane Society’s program does not.
“We will be doing this as long as the vets allow us to do this … but I know they get a lot of discounted spay and neuters in and that is hard on them too. They are losing quite a bit of money,” said Andrew.
The increase in voucher use is one thing that worries Parsons about this ordinance.
“It’s hard for me,” he says. “When people go get vouchers, the veterinary clinics are the ones that take the hit. For me to keep my ten employees … I still gotta feed my family. I have a soft heart; if I could do it all for free, I would.”
Despite the financial hardship vouchers place on local vet clinics, Parsons will continue to accept them for people truly in need. And he’s happy to work out a payment plan for anyone in a tough spot.
While Cevering understands the mixed reaction to the new ordinance, she says it ultimately comes down to one thing.
“There’s a lot of people that are for it and a lot of people against it. The people who are against it don’t have to deal with what we do. We would rather (the pets) be spayed and neutered than to start euthanizing,” she says.
The post New Blackfoot ordinance requiring pets older than 6 months to be spayed or neutered getting mixed reactions appeared first on East Idaho News.

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