Georgia residents will soon have a new way of helping to control the state’s pet population.

Georgia’s second specialized license plate supporting the state’s Dog and Cat Sterilization Fund (DCSF) is set to be released on Feb. 1. Residents were given the opportunity to help choose the art to be featured on the tag, and 9-year-old Sara Richards, a student at Pleasant Grove Elementary, drew a picture of a dog, earning honorable mention from the state.

“I’ve liked to draw since the first grade,” said Sara, owner of a brown-and-black cat named Princess, “so I thought I’d make a picture of a cat or a dog.”

Pleasant Grove gifted student teacher Teda Huskey said Sara’s contest entry was the only one among her 48 students.

“This was not a class assignment. Sara was motivated by the art and took it upon herself to enter,” Huskey said. “We’re especially proud of her because she was competing against artists of all ages.”

Sara, daughter of Donna and Ryan Richards, has taken art classes through Dalton’s Creative Arts Guild and has also entered a postcard design contest sponsored by former President Jimmy Carter.

The new plate features art of “Buddy,” a golden retriever, by contest winner Carolyn Ritter of Alpharetta. Ritter’s art was selected from among more than 400 entries in the contest, held over the summer by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, which oversees the DCSF program.

The state’s first license plate promoting animal control was issued in January 2003. It features art of a dog and cat in a peach-shaped heart by Mark Ballard of Macon. More than 46,000 tags of the first design have sold, with the proceeds helping pay for 19,000 spay/neuter surgeries throughout Georgia, according to an agriculture department press release.

“The Georgia Department of Agriculture recognizes the enormous problem of dog and cat overpopulation in the state,” Commissioner Tommy Irvin said. “Through our Dog and Cat Sterilization Program, we are working to curb this epidemic.”

Both plates will be sold for $25 each plus the cost of registration. More than $22 from each plate sold goes to the sterilization fund.

Direct donations can be made by check to Dog and Cat Sterilization Fund (DCSF), P.O. Box 347043, Atlanta, GA 30334-7043.

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