According to the department's website discussing an amendment to the Dog and Cat Sterilization Program, "In hopes of increasing the amount of sterilization procedures performed statewide, the department is proposing to amend Departmental Rule 40-13-14-.02 to increase the number of procedures veterinarians may perform from three to a maximum of five spay and/or neuter surgeries each month."
The rule applies to situations where veterinarians perform these surgeries at low cost via vouchers or for non-profit organizations, such as the local Etowah Valley Humane Society, which has all of its pets sterilized and updated medical care for annual shots and attention as needed prior to adoptions.
Dr. Kellie Littrell, a veterinarian at Westside Animal Hospital, explained that there are several benefits to pet sterilization.
"Notably, it's going to decrease their chances of certain types of cancer if you do it before their first heat for females and in males it would reduce certain types of cancer such as testicular cancer," Littrell said. "So there are health benefits. There also are behavioral benefits to spaying and neutering your pet. [However,] most of the benefits we can see more notably depend on how early we spay and neuter them, so the earlier the procedure is done, usually the more benefits there are to it."
While many veterinary hospitals charge roughly $200 for the sterilization surgery, the Department of Agriculture also proposes to add a rule creating a Dog and Cat Sterilization Grant Program that would allow "licensed municipal animal shelters and licensed nonprofit animal rescue organizations with 501(c)(3) status to apply for a grant to assist with sterilization procedures on animals that are owned or in the possession, custody or control of the municipal animal shelter or nonprofit animal rescue."
With this addition, the department says they anticipate an ease on the burden for animal shelters and non-profit rescue organizations in payment for the procedure. However, one complication exists for rescue societies.
"It'd be good if you can find a participating vet," EVHS Director Bryan Canty said. "Think about the cost. They want to make the full amount. You'll have a few out there, but why don't we have indigent clinics in Bartow County? It's the same with the animal kingdom."
Littrell and Canty both noted one common concern -- population control.
"[Sterilization] does help control the stray population so that's kind of a public benefit," Littrell said.
Still, Canty expressed the importance of the need for more spaying and neutering to help save the lives of animals and decrease unnecessary and early deaths.
"The people that are getting these done with the vouchers or at the mobile clinics, these are people who can't afford to go to the vet but at least they're putting forth an effort," Canty said. "It would take someone to donate their time, at least a portion of it anyway, for the greater good. There's so many animals out there and we've got one of the highest euthanization rates in metro Atlanta."
The Georgia Department of Agriculture will be accepting public comments until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24. Written comments can be submitted to Dr. Robert Cobb, State Veterinarian, Georgia Department of Agriculture,19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Room 106, Atlanta, GA 30334. For further information on where and how to send comments, call 404-656-3671 or submit comments via fax at 404-657-1357.
More information on the proposed rule change can be found online at http://agr.georgia.gov/legal-notice-012412.aspx. Interested persons may call or submit a written request to obtain a copy of the proposed rule or download a copy of the proposed rules from the link on the above listed website.