Revisions made to Fort Smith’s animal ordinance related to spay and neuter

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 2,275 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors on Tuesday (March 21) revised the city’s animal regulation ordinance that will require dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered. The city first started working towards a spay-neuter requirement in 2019.

On Feb. 7, the board passed an ordinance that makes it illegal to transfer an animal in the city limits unless properly licensed, and would levy a $600 fine on anyone in violation of the ordinance. Changes to the animal ordinance passed Tuesday require pets be spayed or neutered unless the pets are secured, meaning on a leash or in a secure enclosure.

“Exceptions to the spay/neuter requirements herein may be granted upon certification by a licensed veterinarian that sterilization surgery is of significant health risk to a specific animal due to age or health condition,” the ordinance states.

The ordinance also requires pets be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. The revised ordinance says a stray animal given to a shelter will not be released from the shelter or impoundment facility until it is microchipped and spayed or neutered. It also says that animals must be vaccinated before they will be released, and the owner must show proof of vaccination in order to claim the animal. If the owner cannot provide proof, the facility will vaccinate the animal before release, with the owner responsible for the vaccination and spay/neuter costs.

Residents addressed the board at the meeting concerned that many would not be able to afford the spay or neuter procedures for their pets. They said that there should be a voucher system to help those who can not afford the services needed for their pets.

City Administrator Carl Geffken said the board is willing to help with fees, stating that the city will pay $50 for somebody who has a need and is income-qualified to have their pet spayed or neutered.

The approved changes to the ordinance also removed references to annual pet licensing. Though the city board adopted pet licensing a few years ago, it is not implemented or enforced because there have been issues with getting a third-party company to handle the licensing for the city.

City officials have said the changes will not go into effect immediately so that citizens will have time to be made aware of the changes and have questions answered first.