Updated:MARIETTA, Ga. — If you don't have one, then you probably have driven next to someone whose car sports the special Georgia license tag to raise money for spaying and neutering dogs and cats.
Local animal advocates began plotting an action plan Thursday after lawmakers decided to spend most of the money from the tag elsewhere.
Thursday was the one-year anniversary of a rule change that's caused controversy among animal advocates and the owners of the 56,000 cars with the tags.
"We've got to go into the communities where there's a high population of unspayed and neutered and say, 'Hey, we'll spay 'em for free,'" said Michael Good, DVM, owner of Town and Country Animal Clinic in Marietta.
Good spoke with Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland about the state's spay and neuter tag, and where the money goes.
"If I'm going to give money to a cause, in a perfect world I'd like all that money to go to the cause," said Good.
Since May 26, 2010, drivers pay an extra $35 annually.
The tag's no longer a onetime fee. Now, less than a third goes toward the animals.
Tag holder Christina Brown didn't know that until Strickland told her.
Strickland asked Brown if she'll renew the special license plate and she answered, "Now, probably not. I need to do some research to find out where the money is actually going," she said.
10 dollars of the $35 fee goes toward the program and the remainder goes to the general fund.
Deputy State Vet Robert Cobb said it's worked out that revenue is up, enough to double the number of sterilizations.
About 1100 participating vets are now allowed to do two state-funded procedures per month, up from one per month.
"I think it's a very good program. As far as effectiveness, it's the only thing going out there," said Cobb.
Vets decide which clients get state-funded sterilization. Funding is not based on where the pet population is exploding, and whether the pet owner would have paid out of pocket for the procedure anyway is not part of the equation.
Animal advocates meeting Thursday want to better target the funds and get more from the tag.
"For every dollar that you spend on targeted spay neuter, putting the money where it's most needed, you'll save $19 in taxpayer money for animal control," said Rebecca Guinn of Life Line Animal Project, citing a recent university study.