GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - You may see fewer stray dogs and cats roaming the streets of Gulfport once a new animal control ordinance goes into effect. The city council has adopted new requirements for owners trying to reclaim their pets picked up by animal control.
The Humane Society of South Mississippi says last year 15,000 animals ended up in the shelter. More than half of them were strays. Shelter officials say the changes aren't meant to punish pet owners, but make them act more responsibly.
Thursday made a week that an adorable cat had been waiting for his owner to come take him home. At the shelter, this is a common story. Shelter officials say they have no way of knowing to whom the stray belongs.
David Waltman is the shelter clinic director.
"With the new ordinance, if an animal is picked up as a stray, the first time it's picked up, before it goes back to its owner, it would have to be micro chipped. From that point forward, we would always know who that animal belonged to."
Before becoming the shelter's clinic director, David Waltman spent years as a Gulfport animal control officer. He likes another part of the new city ordinance that will work to control the animal population. It requires that any stray picked up a second time will have to be spayed or neutered before its owners can take the animal home.
"The whole point of the ordinance is not to hammer folks on their animals," said Waltman. "It's just to make folks a little more responsible."
"If that animal is getting out and it is not fixed, then it has a chance of adding to the pet overpopulation problem," said Misty Velasquez with the Humane Society of South Mississippi.
Shelter officials say micro-chips can prevent dogs and cats from ever stepping foot there. They say animal control officers have the technology to scan the animals, then use that information to take them directly home. Shelter officials say the fewer animals in the shelter, the better.
"If intake goes down, euthanasia will go down," said Velasquez. "It's very simple, and it is quite possible, but the community has to embrace it. So if spay-neuter becomes part of the everyday solution down here, then euthanasia will quit being part of the everyday reality."
The new ordinance also prohibits unlicensed breeders from selling or giving away animals on the side of the street or in parking lots.
Waltman said, "For the most part, you don't know who these people are. You don't know where the animals came from. You don't know the health of these animals. So people tend to buy from them and if something goes wrong, they have no idea who to go back to."