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Proposed changes to Georgia's spay-neuter program deserve your support

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A proposed rule change to the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Dog and Cat Sterilization Program would increase the availability of low-cost spay-neuter services throughout the state. The rule change would increase from three to five the number of surgeries each vet could perform under the program each month. It would also give licensed 501(c).3 rescues and municipal shelters the opportunity to apply for grants for the spaying and neutering of animals in their possession.

According to the 2009 report compiled by the Georgia Voters for Animal Welfare, an estimated 260,000 dogs and cats die in Georgia shelters every year. Georgia’s statewide kill rate is 62%, significantly higher than the national average of 50%, which is itself unacceptably high. According to the No Kill Advocacy Center, 90% or more of pets entering open-admission shelters are healthy or treatable and would make good family pets. Clearly we need to do more if we are to reduce, and ultimately, end this tragedy.

One very effective way to reduce the number of animals entering shelters is to increase the availability of low- and no-cost spay-neuter services, and this rule change would do just that. Studies have shown that the majority of pet dogs and cats are already spayed or neutered and that the main reason for failure to spay or neuter a pet is cost. The proposed rule change allowing licensed 501(c).3 organizations and licensed municipal shelters to apply for grants for the spaying and neutering of animals in their possession would increase the number of animals that they are able to have spayed and neutered. They will be able to save more lives and ensure that those animals are sterilized prior to adoption. This would benefit people and animals in all parts of the state, from large, urban areas to underserved rural areas. The increase in the number of procedures veterinarians could perform under the program each month would remove the cost barrier for a larger number to pet owners.

The program is funded through tax-deductible donations, the state income tax check-off, and sales of spay-neuter license plates.

The program aims to reduce the number of animals entering Georgia shelters, saving animal lives and taxpayer money.

According to Georgia Department of Agriculture Animal Protection Advisory Board member Davis Cosey, “The current proposal is an improvement of the initial grant guidelines in that licensed 501(c)3 organizations can apply for grants. We anticipate applicants from the broad range of groups, and hope to allocate funds to both the ones working with high volume shelters and those located in the many underserved areas in rural Georgia. Targeted funds and programs aren't the only solutions, but no humane model for ending homeless pets is without them.”

The Department of Agriculture is taking written comments from the public until close of business on February 24, 2012. All animal-loving Georgians should take a few minutes to send a letter of support for these proposed rule changes to:

Dr. Robert Cobb, State Veterinarian
Georgia Department of Agriculture
19 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Room 106
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Telephone: (404) 656-3671
FAX: (404) 657-1357

Just a few lines could make a big difference for a great many animals. You can use these sample letters in Word or Rich Text as a starting point.

Consider making a contribution to the program, and if you run a shelter or rescue, apply for one of the grants if the rule change is adopted.

The Department of Agriculture will consider the comments on February 27, 2012.

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