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Spay/neuter guidelines for animal shelter revisited

NORTH FORSYTH — The Forsyth County Animal Control and Shelter Advisory Committee gave the deputy county manager the go-ahead Wednesday night to work out the local spay-neuter process with the county commission.

Tim Merritt will address the issue that has stirred opinion among residents and groups over the best age at which to spay or neuter animals going out for adoption from the new facility on County Way in north Forsyth.

Under the previous arrangement, a south Forsyth veterinarian had operated the county’s shelter in a small building next to his practice.

The Forsyth County Humane Society and their supporters support fixing an animal of any age before it is adopted.

“I currently am doing spay-neuter for the Athens Area Humane Society, and we spay them if they’re two pounds,” said Janet Martin, a vet. “So kittens this big get spayed because you just can’t allow them to leave without being spayed. There is no evidence that it causes any cat, male or female, any health problems.”

The county government and some committee members support fixing animals at a later more traditional date, and giving the new owners a voucher to return and have animal fixed.

Opponents worry that if animals aren’t fixed prior to adoption they never will be. Martin said that studies have shown that fewer than 50 percent of people come back to have an animal spayed, even if they’ve left a deposit

“Even if they put money down to pay for that spay, they don’t get it done” she said. “Jonny has baseball practice, Suzy has dance classes, Mommy has a headache. Life goes on and you forget. The animals pregnant and having babies and you haven’t got it done.”

Compromises have been made to let the discretion of when to fix the animal be left up to the vet performing the surgery, and a tentative date of 12 weeks is being considered as the earliest.

Committee chair John McGruder, a vet, said that whatever is eventually adopted will be successful in Forsyth.

“I don’t consider us an average county either,” he said. “We talk about average or 60 percent, we’re not an average county. It’s possible, I think, to do this at a very high success rate, it’s just going to take a little more effort.”

During a work session Tuesday, the county commission voted to approve an hourly vet take care of animals until a permanent one is found for the shelter.