THV EXTRA: Opposing sides discuss proposed spay, neuter law in Arkansas

    6:55 AM, Nov 22, 2013   |    comments
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    Dog at an area animal shelter (Photo: Ashley Blackstone, THV11)
     PDF Document: House Bill 2160 on Sterilization

    UNDATED (KTHV ) - Arkansas has one of the highest stray animal rates in the country, according to an animal advocate in the state, and how to fix the problem continues to create controversy.

    Taking care of animals is like second nature to Billy Grace, the director of North Little Rock Animal Control. 

    "It's not about me. It's about the animals," he said smiling.

    But there's also a darker side to caring for the animals.

    "It's disheartening," Grace says, talking about the hardest part of his job, seeing hundreds of cats and dogs euthanized every year.

    In 2012, the city put down more than 1,000 cats and nearly 1,700 dogs. While the goal is to have every animal in the shelter adopted, Grace says that's not the reality. North Little Rock is an open door shelter, meaning wether they're full or not, they take any animals that come to the facility. 

    "Every animal that you turn away from your door is going to produce in multitudes," he explained.

    However, the shelter's mission to keep stray animals off the street is creating an overcrowding problem.  To help with this, they ship dozens of animals off to other states every few weeks. 

    "That is a temporary fix to a permanent problem," says Grace.

    THV11 found a similar situation happening across the state. We gathered euthanization numbers from shelters in central Arkansas. Of the six shelters that answered our request, their numbers showed that more than 4,200 cats and dogs were put down in 2012.

    As for how many are put down across the entire state?

    "We're euthanizing between 60,000 and 80,000 dogs and cats in Arkansas animal shelters," says Grace.

    Grace is a supporter of House Bill 2160, which was proposed to lawmakers last January.  It would require many pet owners to spay and neuter their mixed breed dogs and cats. Arkansans who don't comply would face a $50 fee each year, per pet.

    Representative Eddie Armstrong is the bill's sponsor.

    He says, "I wasn't on a witch hunt and I'm still not."

    It didn't become a law, but Armstrong's fight to make it happen and to look at other options is back.

    "As opposed to pointing your finger at me or any member that may feel adamant about this issue, understand that we are simply responding to the request of the constituents needs," explains Armstrong.

    Over the next few months, lawmakers will study the bill, identify concerns, and talk with supporters and opponents. 

    Jake Hillard is one of those opposed to the bill.

    "It's almost impossible to enforce," she said.

    Hillard operates a spay and neutering clinic in Pulaski County for low-income pet owners and believes a law like this would be a burden on local governments.

    "I think rather than going to the punitive side where we are criminalizing for not having their pets spayed or neutered, we really need to push for access throughout the state," she suggested.

    THV11 found out seven of Arkansas' 75 counties don't have veterinarians to provide care for these animals. And while Hillard admits Arkansas is one of the worst states in the country for stray animals, she believes many people would simply hide their pets from authorities to keep from being fined. 

    Grace, though, said the cost associated with the potential law pales in comparison to the amount of tax dollars paid out every year for euthanasia.

    "We want to get every animal out of here alive," he explains, calling that as is his mission.

    Because of that, he will be back at the Arkansas State Capitol for the next legislative session prepared for controversy.

    Little Rock enacted a similar ordinance in 1998. Statistics show it has reduced the amount of dogs and cats killed by about $4,000 per year.

    Low Cost Spay or Neuter Clinics:

    1. Greenbrier: Companions Spay and Neuter Clinic

    Female Puppy $75
    Male Puppy $65
    Female Kitten $50
    Male Kitten $40

    2. City of Bryant: 501-557-5518

    Female Puppy $70
    Male Puppy $60
    Female Kitten $50
    Male Kitten $40

    3. Little Rock: Arkansas For Animals Rescue

    Female Puppy $65
    Male Puppy $65
    Female Kitten $35
    Male Kitten $35


    Arkansas counties without veterinarians:

    2012 Euthanization dog/cat totals:
    Little Rock Animal Shelter - 1,513
    Conway Animal Welfare - 836
    Humane Society of Searcy - 835
    Jacksonville Animal Shelter - 783
    Sherwood Humane Animal Shelter - 249
    Maumelle Friends of the Animals - 47

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