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Virginia punts spay/neuter proposal to 2015

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Facing resistance in some quarters to a proposed spay/neuter fund, a Virginia Senate panel decided Jan. 30 to wait at least a year to consider the measure.

The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously to delay action on the bill until the 2015 legislative session. Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County), who introduced the measure Jan. 16, said he concluded he needs more time to "improve" his proposal after receiving negative feedback from interested parties.

"There was opposition to the fee provision assessed in the bill," Stanley said in an e-mail Feb. 3. "Also, various veterinary groups had requested some changes to the language of the bill.”

The bill would launch a companion animal sterilization program to curb overpopulation and reduce the number of cats and dogs put down in shelters across the state. By placing a surcharge on pet food distributed in the commonwealth, the program would pay for low- or no-cost spay/neuter surgeries for pets in low-income households, companion animals under the care of animal shelters and rescue groups, and feral cats.

Animal advocacy groups say the legislation is needed because tens of thousands of healthy but unwanted animals are euthanized in Virginia shelters each year. But the Pet Food Institute, which represents U.S. pet food makers, objected to the pet food surcharge because it would “increase the financial burden on the very same low-income residents the proposal aims to assist,” institute spokesman Kurt Gallagher said Feb. 5. The fee would have raised the cost of a 10-pound bag of cat food by 25 cents and a 40-pound bag of dog food by $1, he told Examiner.com.

“We believe fair, voluntary funding sources should be used to raise money for spay/neuter assistance programs,” Gallagher added. These sources "could include the sale of specialty license plates, income tax checkoffs and donations from the public. Programs could also be funded from general state revenues," including sales taxes already collected on pet products.

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