By Paula Ann Solis
Baylor students, faculty and staff who have returned to Waco this fall with pet cats or dogs will face new regulations concerning spaying and neutering.
On Aug. 20, the Waco City Council unanimously approved the second reading of a new ordinance making it official that all Waco pet owners will be required to spay or neuter dogs and cats older than four months. All Waco pet owners are also now required to implant their animals with microchips, a radio frequency identification device placed under the skin. Animals with certain health problems, used by government agencies and animals owned by breeders are exempt from certain measures of the new ordinance.
These amendments to animal regulations in Waco, which also included guidelines regarding tethering and neglect of animals, are intended to decrease the number of animals impounded and euthanized by the Humane Society of Central Texas, according to Waco’s animal control services website. Tethering laws, which previously only forbade chaining animals in a harmful manner, now forbid animals from being chained near public walkways and while unattended.
During the city council meetings, no members of the Waco community spoke in opposition of the ordinance.
“I whole-heartedly support the ordinance,” said humane society board member Laura Swann. “Our goal is to become a no-kill city. Our target is zero. We will have gotten to zero when not a single cat or dog that is healthy or has a treatable medical or behavior condition is put to death in a shelter.”
Swann, who spoke to the council on this issue Aug. 6 during the ordinance’s first reading, is also a member of Waco’s Animal Welfare Advisory Board. It was by the advisory board’s recommendation that the city adopted the ordinance to revise animal regulations in Waco in hopes of becoming a no-kill city, which is any city that can avoid euthanasia for 90 percent or more of impounded animals.
As of July, Waco’s humane society is currently at 61 percent for animals that have exited alive and more than 1,800 animals have been euthanized this year. Don Bland, the director of the Humane Society of Central Texas, said this new ordinance is the first step in the right direction for Waco.
“We are setting a great example here in Waco for other cities in Texas with this policy,” Bland said. “This is really going to help slow down the inflow of animals and less animals will have to be euthanized because of space issues and more animals can hopefully be placed in homes.”
Bland said currently the average stay for an animal brought into the shelter and not reclaimed or adopted is 15 to 20 days. After that time, the animal will most likely be euthanized to make space for new animals.
Though the new ordinance is set to be enforced Jan. 1, at which point violators will be fined $250, Bland said the humane society will begin spaying, neutering and implanting microchips on all animals impounded by Oct. 1. Owners who claim their animals from the shelter will have to pay for services rendered.
According to the ordinance, if a dog or cat without a microchip is not claimed within 72 hours the city may transfer ownership through adoption, place the animal with a rescue group or humanely euthanize it if necessary because of lack of space or health issues.
Shertz senior Kimani Mitchell said she regularly fosters animals from Waco’s shelter to help avoid euthanasia for reasons of space and is happy with the city council’s decision.
“I tried to make it out to each of the city council meetings about the new ordinance,” Mitchell said. “I’m excited that this has passed and I feel like this is going to be a great improvement for Waco. Baylor students with pets should also be excited because this ordinance is for the protection of all animals.”
Mitchell said the latest dog she fostered, a bull-terrier mix named Kasey, was adopted just two weeks after staying with her. However, Mitchell said not every animal at the shelter gets an extra two weeks to wait for adoption, which is why this ordinance is so important.
Low-income Wacoan dog and cat owners who need to have their pets spayed or neutered may qualify for free services based on their income or location. For information on reduced pricing of spaying and neutering visit AnimalBirthControl.org or to learn more about the changes in animal regulation visit waco-texas.com/animal-control.asp.