Pet owners could have a little more leeway in keeping their dogs from being spayed or neutered if they're impounded.

Charleston County already has laws in place that say stray animals must be sterilized before they are returned to their owners, but County Council would modify those laws under two amendments expected to pass council this week.

If the modifications are approved, pet owners could have their dogs neutered by the veterinarian of their choice and no animal would be neutered or spayed sooner than five days from the date it is picked up.

Council already initially approved the amendments, but it will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Lonnie Hamilton III building, 4045 Bridge View Drive in North Charleston.

Council should give final approval at its meeting later that night.

Charles Karesh of the Charleston Animal Society said the shelter takes in about 11,000 animals a year from the county's unincorporated areas.

He said they have to euthanize many animals because people aren't responsible and their stray pets contribute to the overpopulation.

"The only answer to get the animal population down and under control is to spay or neuter animals," Karesh said. "We're trying to reasonably change laws."

Karesh said it typically costs about $40 for the procedure at the shelter.

The proposed amend- ments would allow owners more say-so for their pets found at-large.

"All this does is say that you can use your own vet if you want to," he said.

County law exempts pets if a veterinarian advises against sterilization, if the owner can prove the pet participated in a nationally recognized conformation or obedience show within the past year, or if the pet assists a disabled person.

But Councilman Curtis Inabinett said the law also should spell out exceptions for legitimate hunters, who often own expensive trained dogs.

"I'm not talking about the guys who have a coon dog, and he's running loose and harassing neighbors and may be diseased," Inabinett said. "I'm talking about that person who takes pride in his animals, protects his animals and is unable to retrieve them immediately after a hunt. We need to protect those folks."

Inabinett said he also doesn't think five days is enough cushion before the shelter sterilizes stray hunting dogs.

"I don't think they should rush the judgment on whether it should be spayed or neutered and charge these large fees just because the individual wasn't able to find his animal at the end of the hunt," Inabinett said.