By Carson Gerber
Tribune staff writer
Starting next year, dog owners in Peru with unfixed pets will have a choice — either have the dog spay or neutered, or pay an annual $40 registration fee.
The upcoming fee is part of a new animal control ordinance city council passed last month in an effort to preemptively deter a barrage of unwanted stray dogs in the city. Owners who have fixed pets will only pay a $5 annual registration fee.
“I don’t think we have a huge problem with stray animals,” said Peru Animal Control Officer Greg Douglass, noting nearly 300 lost or stray dogs came through the pound in 2011. “It’s more about getting a handle on the situation now before it gets out of control.”
But some dogs owners say the new ordinance goes too far.
“I think it’s nuts,” said Dennis Leatherman, owner of Pampered Pets, a pet grooming business on North Broadway.
Leatherman said he’s not against spay or neutering, but he believes having a dog fixed should be the personal choice of the owner. Forcing owners with unfixed dogs to pay a higher registration fee isn’t fair, he said.
But Peru Mayor Jim Walker argued unfixed dogs affect more people than just the owner. He said it’s a city-wide issue.
“The big problem is you have people who don’t take care of their pets and don’t get them spay or neutered,” he said. “They let them run wild, and then you have more and more unwanted animals on the street,” which costs the city more money to control and capture the stray dogs.
Carl Humbarger, a veterinarian at Peru Animal Hospital and member of Miami County Animal Control Board, said spay and neutering also has health benefits for dogs, like reducing the risk of cancer. He said the fixing procedure can cost up to $200 depending on the size of the animal.
“If you have something that deters multiple pregnancies, that’s good,” he said. “So if someone doesn’t want to spay or neuter their pet, that’s their choice, and they can pay the extra registration fee.”
Douglass said the city based the animal control ordinance on a similar policy used in Lafayette, where he said charging extra for unfixed pets has proven a powerful motivator for dog owners to go ahead with the procedure.
“This isn’t about making a ton of money,” he said. “It’s about helping owners find their pets and controlling the pet population ... Unless you’re a professional dog breeder, why would you want to risk your dog’s health and not do it? I’m hoping this acts as a incentive.”
Beyond the $40 fee, Leatherman criticized the ordinance for unfairly discriminating against dog owners. He said if the city requires registration for dogs, it should also require it for other animals, especially cats.
“Why is it just for dog people, and not other animals,” he said, noting he believes stray cats are a bigger problem than lost dogs in Peru.
But for now, Douglass said the ordinance is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to institute an animal control program in the city.
“This is really just a cheap way to have a little insurance to find your dog in case it gets lost,” he said.