By Karl Keith, Montgomery County Auditor
The consequences associated with pet overpopulation have been described by animal rescue groups as a national tragedy. Indeed, the statistics are heart-rending.
An estimated 50,000 puppies and kittens are born daily in the United States, more than 18 million a year. For every dog and cat with a home, there are four others that are likely to be homeless, neglected and abused.
The number of stray dogs and cats living out on the streets in America today cannot be accurately determined, but the ASPCA estimates the number of cats alone could be as high as 70 million.
And, between 4 and 6 million dogs and cats are put down each year because no one wants them; that’s about one animal destroyed every eight seconds.
Pet overpopulation is a very real problem with dreadful results.
Encouraging pet owners to spay or neuter their pets is more than just a catch-phrase for some game show host. It is considered to be the easiest and most effective solution to the overpopulation problem.
Montgomery County’s decision to implement a fee differential this year for licensing dogs that have been spayed or neutered is a constructive measure to address this problem in our own community. In fact, one official at the county’s Animal Resource Center described it as the most pro-active step we have ever taken to deal with local animal control issues.
With the implementation of this fee differential, owners whose dogs have been spayed or neutered will continue to pay the $20 annual licensing fee as they have in the past, but owners whose dogs have not been altered will pay $24 per license.
There are exceptions to the additional fee for unaltered dogs. If the owner’s dog is under 9 months of age or too advanced in age to be spayed or neutered, it can be excluded from the higher fee. Dogs used for breeding, show, or hunting may be excluded as well.
But, encouraging owners to spay or neuter their pets whenever possible by use of a fee differential is a meaningful and progressive step with strong support throughout the community. In an online survey of licensed dog owners conducted by the Auditor’s Office, over 90 percent of those who responded indicated backing for an increased fee for unaltered dogs.
The Montgomery County Animal Resource Center shelters approximately 10,000 dogs and cats each year. If you ask the staff at the Center, they will be quick to tell you that unaltered dogs comprise the majority of the animals impounded as well as those involved in bites and injuries.This year’s new fee differential demonstrates the county’s desire to find a long term solution to some of these issues. Over time, the additional fee for unaltered dogs is intended to have a positive impact on both the cost and the tragic consequences related to pet overpopulation in our community.