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Columns

Charge for intact dogs just good sense

By SUE CARLTON
Published April 6, 2007


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Proposed Amendment to Hillsborough County Animal Ordinance No. 00-26: Section 45: Irresponsible Dog Owners.

1. Owners who fail to neuter or spay their dogs due to laziness, apathy, carelessness or some ridiculous obsession with dog prowess will be fined the going cost of the current designer dog. (See: Boxerdoodle, Chiweenie, Schnoodle, Sheltidoodle, et al.)

1A: Said owners will also be assigned one week of dog-doo duty at a local shelter for unwanted animals.

* * *

That's how I would write it. Hillsborough County is considering some good if slightly less radical ideas for changing the rules of dog ownership.

The County Commission got to talking about this after the latest dog-bite horror story, a Plant City toddler who was helping feed the family dogs with his great-grandma when he was attacked and mauled by one of them, a pit bull.

This isn't anything new. Just this week, the commission gave a commendation to a woman named Angel Perez for stopping to help a little boy being attacked by a pack of pit bulls.

As happens when it comes to people and their pets (and in this case, breeders and their business), some folks are already riled. (Note to pit bullterrier, Rottweiler and German shepherd enthusiasts who have been peppering commissioners with e-mails about how cuddly their dogs really are: No one is recommending a ban on specific breeds.)

Turns out three out of four dog bites come from unfixed (or "intact") dogs, most of them male.

So commissioners are considering a yearly fee for anyone who fails to spay or neuter a dog, and a fee for each litter. At one point, they talked about fees of up to $150.

Breeders will not like this.

While the aim is to reduce dog bites, the obvious benefit is fewer unwanted dogs. Hillsborough Animal Services had to euthanize 29,000 unwanted animals last year. Yes, that many zeros.

Maybe you live in a neighborhood where a loose dog means the neighbor's blow-dried Lhasa apso sniffs around the cul-de-sac for a while. But in a lot of places, it's a stray who is hungry or menacing or afraid. It means a dog having litter after litter of unwanted pups.

The prospect of paying that fee would surely spur some dog owners who just haven't gotten around to it. (Cost should be no excuse - the county has a voucher program for low-income residents at participating vets.) Those who want their dogs to have puppies, or to sire them, can pay.

And the prowess crowd? Guys. You can't buy your dog a beer when he turns 21, either. Get over it.

Other good sense proposals on the table include a pro-active animal control team out in the neighborhoods, dog bite prevention programs in schools and a searchable database of dog bite incidents.

Everyone agrees education is key. But as County Commissioner Kevin White pointed out, some people don't want to be educated.

An ordinance making sure pet owners act responsibly or pay the price surely will get their attention.

Proposed ordinance, continued: Along with paying a fee for each litter of puppies, breeders (and those who buy from them) will be offered a complimentary tour of a local animal shelter to view lots of really cute homeless dogs who already exist.

Couldn't hurt, right?

[Last modified April 6, 2007, 07:03:08]


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