Commissioners adopt pet sterilization rule

Pet owners in Clark County’s jurisdiction have until mid-May to sterilize cats and dogs older than 4 months or face misdemeanor charges.

Clark County commissioners unanimously approved a rule Tuesday requiring residents to either sterilize their animals or obtain a $25 breeders permit.

The rule will go into effect in two weeks, and pet owners will have 120 days after that to comply. It will put the county in line with spay-neuter laws in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas.

Critics and supporters showed up at Tuesday’s meeting. Most who spoke to commissioners favored mandatory sterilization, saying it will reduce the area’s stray population.

An estimated 30,000 animals are euthanized each year, and between 200,000 and 500,000 feral cats roam the valley.

“I think the numbers are pretty staggering,” said Karen Layne, president of the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society.

But Keith Whitlock, a county resident, said compulsory spay-and-neuter programs have “failed miserably” in other cities.

Animal control costs escalate, and people are reluctant to take their non-sterilized pets to the veterinarian for shots and other care because they fear they will be cited, Whitlock said.

“It’s just a bad idea,” Whitlock said.

However, Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who sponsored the code, said it will help stop irresponsible backyard breeding.

“Unless we have a little bit of a hammer, we won’t get compliance,” she said.

Those who don’t comply can be fined a maximum of $1,000 and jailed up to six months. Animal control officials have said the goal is get people to sterilize their pets, and not to punish the owners.

Animal control officers won’t patrol neighborhoods seeking violators, Giunchigliani said.

Joe Boteilho, who heads the county’s animal control, has said officers are most likely to bust violators while responding to nuisance complaints about an animal.

The cost to spay or neuter a pet can run as high as $250 at a veterinary clinic. Heaven Can Wait Animal Society offers the service on a sliding scale depending on a person’s income. The group charges a maximum of $75 and will sterilize an impoverished person’s pet for free.

A few people argued that 4 months was too young to sterilize a puppy.

Mike Connell, an area resident, said 6 months was the youngest a puppy should be sterilized. Doing it earlier can stunt the dog’s growth, he said.

“It closes their growth pads and they don’t continue to grow,” he said.

Giunchigliani initially put the required age for dogs at 6 months but knocked it down to 4 months at the request of other commissioners. Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said the two neighboring cities had the 4-month age threshold. He said it was important to keep the codes as uniform as possible to avoid confusion.

Holly Stoberski, vice president of Heaven Can Wait, said she had no problem with the new rule. “It’s a good day for everyone concerned,” she said.

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