NORMAN, Okla. - A controversial program is under consideration in Norman - officials are debating the efficacy of a mandatory spay-neuter law that would require all pets be fixed.
The city ordinance is proposed to combat the growing number of unwanted animals born, and later euthanized.
"Our numbers have almost doubled from last year to this year," said Maj. David Teuscher with the Norman Police Department, "so we’ve had some issues in Norman with the increase of that population."
The current draft of the law mandates that any dog or cat over six months old must be spayed or neutered, unless owners acquire a license for it to remain intact.
At a City Hall meeting Monday night, about 80 people were in attendance to weigh in on the spay-neuter ordinance, and others that are currently being considered by the Animal Welfare Oversight Committee. Those in attendance included dog breeders and veterinarians.
Many argued that setting an age by which animals should be fixed is wrong because it's an unsafe procedure for some breeds if done too young.
Others argued that the law would actually increase the number of animals euthanized, turned in after owners decide they can't afford to get their animal altered.
"To be effective, spay and neuter needs to be affordable and accessible," said Kim Schlitter.
Schlitter is the executive director for Best Friends of Pets, an organization that helps provide spay and neuter to low-income pet owners. She wants to see more resources put into services like hers, as well as community education for the benefits and need of spaying and neutering tor prevent animal homelessness. She insists making it unaffordable for some people to own a pet is not the right option.
"For many people their cats and dogs are their only companions," Sclitter said. "I am not about to tell someone they cannot have a pet."
News 4 spoke to some at the meeting who are in favor of the ordinance, like Jim Matt, who said the number of animals running wild on or near his property has become out of control.
However, the vast majority of those who spoke up at the meeting were opposed to the ordinance.
Maj. Teushcher says that doesn't mean it's decided.
"This is only a small percentage, 70 to 80 people compared to 120,000 that live in the community," Maj. Teuscher said, "so City Council really needs to reach out to their whole population and decide from there."
The proposal is one of many new or altered ordinances being considered by the AWOC. The committee will consider the comments made at Monday night's meeting before making a recommendation to Norman City Council, who will likely vote on them sometime early next year.