A few months ago, a couple came in to register their dogs for the dog park located at the SPCA Albrecht Center. They were new to the area and, while registering for the park, they asked whether or not they needed their dogs registered with the City – something they were required to do in their last town.

I’ll be the first to admit that I did not know the answer to this question because I live in Aiken County, where there is not yet a fertile dog ordinance in place. However, in the City of Aiken, it is very much a law that all pet owners in the area should be aware of.

This dog registration ordinance came about in 2005, when Aiken City Council and the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare were working together to resolve the pet overpopulation issue. The basics of the ordinance were as follows: if a dog owner was so inclined to refuse to spay or neuter their animal, they would be required to register their pet with the City of Aiken and pay a $100 lifetime registration fee.

If you have two to five dogs, there is a $200.00 maximum, and, for six or more pets, there is a $300.000 maximum for registration fees.

This was not an act to ‘punish’ owners of fertile dogs, but rather to incentivize non-breeders with fertile pets to spay and neuter and help eliminate the free-roaming, accidental pregnancies that plague area shelters. The reality is, responsible breeders are willing to pay a registration fee if it means getting to keep their fertile dog.

There are two exceptions that may exempt you from having to pay a fertile dog fee (though you still must register). If your pet has a medical reason, with written certification from your licensed veterinarian, as to why they cannot withstand a spay or neuter surgery, you may be excused from spaying or neutering and exempt from paying the higher registration fee. If you are a handicapped owner with a certified service animal (as described in section 8-3-(d) of the City Code), you must register your animal, but will be exempt from paying the tag fee.

In addition to registering fertile animals, owners of sterile dogs must also register their pets. However, there are no fees associated with registering a sterile animal, but there can be noncompliance penalties if you fail to register your dog with the City of Aiken. Whether your companion is fertile or sterile, registration requires a proof of rabies, which is required by state law, and a proof of microchip.

This ordinance has proven effective in the City of Aiken, as well as many other community’s across the country. In 2005, at the time the ordinance was first established, 667 dogs were admitted through the City of Aiken. In 2018, just 13 years later, this number was cut by more than 50% to 252 dogs, with 99 dogs being returned to their owners (Please note that dogs admitted to the City of Aiken do not reflect all of the animals taken in by the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare in a year).

If you are interested in taking the first step towards registering your dog by meeting the veterinary requirements, visit the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Veterinary Care Center. We offer affordable spay and neuter options, city and county vouchers, as well as rabies vaccinations and microchips. For a full list of services, please visit www.SPCAVetCare.org. To schedule your pet’s spay or neuter appointment, call (803) 648-6864. Veterinary exams and vaccinations are walk-in only; Tuesday – Friday from 1 pm to 4 pm and Saturday from 8 am to noon.

If you would like to register your dog with the City of Aiken, visit us at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare or go the Aiken Public Safety Offices on Beaufort Street. Bring your pet’s proof of rabies vaccination, microchip number, and spay or neuter (unless registering a fertile dog). We’ll provide the paperwork and help you make it official!

For full details regarding the City of Aiken’s registration ordinance, check out Sec 8-3 of the ‘Aiken City Code.’

Pet ownership means responsibility – point blank. By having local and state laws in place that help reinforce this idea, it only creates a better standard of care and a better community for our companions. And, it means fewer animals at risk of euthanasia in shelters due to accidental pregnancies. As far as I’m concerned, the City’s registration ordinance is a big ‘two-thumbs up’ for me!

An Aiken native and self-proclaimed cat lady, Claire Roberson is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Communications Director, working in marketing, grant writing and media correspondence. She attended College of Charleston, where she graduated with a degree in Nonprofit Business and interned with Charleston Animal Society, the leader in No-Kill South Carolina. When not working, you can find Claire hanging out with her 18-pound Maine Coon mix, Anakin.