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As part of a new strategy to reduce the population of strays, Galax is offering the city's pet owners the opportunity to receive a reimbursement check that will cover a portion of the cost to sterilize their cat or dog.
The city will reimburse the pet owner $50 — or 50 percent, whichever is less — to spay or neuter a cat or dog they own or are adopting.
"The hope is to see fewer stray animals," said Assistant City Manager Keith Barker. "Sometimes we don't do something because of cost savings, but just because it's the better thing to do."
In 2006, the Galax-Carroll-Grayson Animal Shelter euthanized 1,663 dogs and 1,153. Last year, 1,408 dogs and 1,129 cats were euthanized.
It seems the shelter is staying with its track record this year. From January through March, the shelter took in 426 pets. The animal shelter euthanized 123 cats and dogs in January, 101 in February and 102 in March, for a total of 326.
Since the city's budget has only allocated $2,500, the program is limited to a first-come, first-serve basis until funding is exhausted. Normally this funding, which is provided through revenue from animal licensing fees, is allocated to other budget categories.
Only city residents are eligible for the reimbursement. It's also limited to two pets per household in a calendar year.
Barker said the city had to limit the number to two, because if a pet owner has more than that, they would face issues of needing a kennel license.
To be eligible to receive a reimbursement check:
• the pet must be spayed or neutered;
• the pet owner must provide proof of the procedure and an invoice, which will be directed to the city's director of finance;
• the owner must have the appropriate animal license;
• the owner must provide proof of a rabies vaccination.
Once these items have been verified, the city will issue a reimbursement check to the owner in approximately 30 days.
The reimbursement program covers only the costs associated with the sterilization itself. The owner is responsible for the remaining costs of the sterilization fee and any other associated costs incurred with the veterinarian.
Since the Twin County Human Society also pays half the cost of the procedure for animals adopted at the shelter, Barker said pet owners have the opportunity to have the procedure completely paid for.
When individuals adopt an animal, they must have the cat or dog spayed or neutered. Adoption fee at the Galax-Carroll-Grayson Animal Shelter is $15. Depending on size, type of animal and procedure, it can cost as much as $35 to $150, with neutering cats typically the cheapest procedure.
"I just hope this program will encourage people to have their pet spayed or neutered to help cut down on the pet population," said Shelter Director Gina Dalton. "Maybe this will provide some help to people. I know some people on fixed incomes are having a hard time right now."