Time to microchip your pets: Fines will be levied if not done by 2017

HARLINGEN — Officials are taking big steps to curb the number of dogs and cats euthanized in the city’s animal shelter.

One way they hope to do that is to require dog and cat owners microchip their pets. That is expected to help keep them out of the Humane Society’s animal shelter.

Officials also have proposed hefty fines for pet owners who fail to neuter their dogs and cats.

“It’s a huge step for the shelter,” Pat Truman-White, the Human Society’s president, said yesterday.

Last year, the animal shelter euthanized 6,299 dogs and cats.

“It’s horrible that we have to kill, or euthanize, that many dogs and cats,” said City Commissioner Tudor Uhlhorn, part of a committee proposing a new ordinance.

In a meeting Wednesday, city commissioners approved the first reading of the ordinance that would require dog and cat owners to microchip their pets by Jan. 1, 2017, or face a $266 fine.

Commissioners also proposed raising a $90.27 fine to as much as $2,000 for dog and cat owners who fail to spay or neuter their pets.

Pat Truman-White called it the biggest increase in fines in 20 years.

“We want to make people take responsibility,” she said. “Let’s make them pay for their irresponsibility.”

Under the proposed ordinance, the city will require dog and cat owners to install a microchip in their pet that would allow the animal shelter to identify the pet owner.

That cuts the risk of pets being euthanized, Truman-White said.

“It’s so we can identify the owner as quickly as possible and to have the animal in our system,” she said. “That way we can eliminate a lot of unnecessary euthanizing.”

Truman-White said a microchip, smaller than a grain of rice, is injected in the animal’s neck.

The shelter charges $10 to install microchips, she said.

Officials are counting on the proposed fines to push dog and cat owners to spay or neuter their pets.

The proposed ordinance would not impose fines on first-time offenders if their pets have been microchipped and spayed or neutered.

City commissioners are expected to consider the ordinance’s approval Feb. 3.

Fines will become effective upon the ordinance’s approval.