By Ed Martin, Editor

Lemoore’s city council members, at their June 2 meeting, adopted a new ordinance that requires pet owners to submit proof of their animals having been spayed or neutered in order to obtain a license. It was the council’s second look at the ordinance, referred to as the second reading.

All ordinances require two “readings” before adoption. Councilmembers approved the first reading at their May 19 meeting and voted 3-2 to go forward with the proposal.

This time, with the support of Eddie Neal, who previously voted against it, councilmembers easily passed it 4-1, over the objections of councilmember Billy Siegel, who framed his opposition to the ordinance as a violation of his rights to own and take care of a pet. Normally, the second reading is part of the consent calendar, where it is often lumped together with other items. Siegle removed it from the calendar for individual discussion.

“The First reading of this ordinance passed with a 3-2 vote … and I didn’t want to let it just go through on the consent calendar without having the opportunity to discuss it more in detail,” he said adding that he hoped he might change some minds prior to adoption.

“Part of this ordinance, if we want to give a brief description of it,” he added,  “its having to spade or neuter your pets in the city of Lemoore and  I believe this ordinance has gone too far into people’s freedoms and liberties and into their homes and into their backyards.”

He told councilmembers that he disagrees with the ordinance because if you own a pet that is not neutered then the pet never leaves the house, never is off your property, you’re still not in compliance with the city’s laws or ordinances.

“You’re technically in violation of a misdemeanor if you have a pet in your house. And you know, good honest citizens don’t want to feel that way. They certainly couldn’t invite me over, anybody from council, any law enforcement, anybody who is sworn to take the oath and uphold the ordinance of the state of California, or the city. Thy either jeopardize their friendship or they force that person to jeopardize their integrity, by not turning them in or doing their job or what they’re sworn to do.”

Siegel added that he’d like to support the fact that we spay or neuter their pets. “It’s just the part where it’s in their homes that makes it illegal. It makes it part of our government’s over reach.”

Chief Darrel Smith, who introduced the amended ordinance, said it’s the proper thing to do. “It’s the responsible thing to do as a pet owner,” he said. “Millions of animals are euthanized every year. They get picked up and if responsible owners don’t pick them up at the shelter, they end up euthanized.”

Smith said the current ordinance is that if an animal gets picked up and goes to the shelter, prior to being released to its owner, the owner has to show proof of spaying or neutering. “The only change would be that if you apply for a permit, you have to show proof of spay or neuter, or you apply for a breeder’s permit.”

An annual license costs $15. A breeder’s permit costs $105 annually.

Siegel suggested that a law abiding citizens might not want to pay the fee and that if councilmembers vote for this ordinance “you take people into their back yards, homes, and personal liberties.”

Smith disagreed. “We’re not going to go door to door to determine if the animal is sprayed or neutered.”

Councilmember Ray Madrigal attempted to clarify the purpose of the ordinance by asking Smith the intent of the amendment.

“To keep animal owners responsible for their pets. Currently we pick up 1,100 animals a year,” said Smith, “and probably 60 percent are dogs. They go to the county shelter. If we’re fortunate enough they end up at the rescues, and I have three of those rescue dogs at my house alone. The key is that most irresponsible pet owners do not spay or neuter their pets.”

Kerry Martin Higgins, an official with the local SPCA said the city’s ordinance is a positive step in the right direction. Other pet owners and citizens in the council audience that night expressed similar responses. One even suggested that owning a pet is a privilege, like driving a car. There have to be rules attached to the process.