Cities care for four-legged citizens with improved animal care ordinances and facilities
Recently, cities have been looking at their animal ordinances or animal shelters to improve their care of the pet population. Many are reworking ordinances to better control what animals are allowed or the number of animals allowed within city limits as well as ensuring humane, proper treatment of pets. Other cities are building or upgrading their animal shelters to help control the stray population.
Prior to the recent construction of the city’s new animal shelter, Marlin, Texas, did not have its own animal shelter. When it came to stray animals, the city contracted with the Waco and Rosebud facilities. However, Marlin had an animal control officer on staff who would respond to animal complaints throughout the city. If a stray animal was found, the animal control officer would attempt to contact the animal’s owner. Otherwise, local and statewide rescues would be contacted to take possession of the stray animal.
With the number of stray animals getting out of control, the city decided it needed its own facility to hold and care for the strays. The city and donors raised approximately $50,000 in order to build the shelter and get it up and running, which took approximately one year from planning to functioning. Members of the community are helping to support the shelter by donating numerous supplies for both the building and the pets. The shelter will be run by the city and volunteers. Funding will come from both the city and continued community donations.
Marlin’s new shelter is an approximately a 1,200-square-foot metal building with a small lobby at the entrance for staff and community members to interact. The animal control officer has a small office in the shelter. There is also an exam room for animals and a restroom. A washer and dryer are housed in the shelter to clean blankets and towels for the strays. A sally port allows the animal control officer’s truck to be driven inside the shelter to unload the animals. Supplies are also stored in this area. The shelter’s 12 kennels are located under an awning at the back of the shelter. It is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
According to William Hunt, the Marlin animal control officer, the shelter is currently only housing stray dogs at this time and is not taking owner surrenders. Instead of roaming the community, stray dogs will have a safe place to stay at the shelter. This will also help reduce the number of property damage and bite calls from strays within the community. These stray dogs are then put up for adoption.
Hunt stressed, “The biggest problem in the community is that owners need to know how important it is to have your pet spayed or neutered. Spay and neuter is the best way to reduce unwanted animals in the community. It is very important also for owners to get their animal microchipped.”
The city of Natchez, Miss., is growing, and as the population grows, the city discovered the need to help protect the pet populations that grow alongside it. In July 2020, when Mayor Dan Gibson took office, animal lovers and animal right advocates teamed up with him to explore and do an overall assessment of the city’s animal ordinance. This new ordinance just passed in February 2022.
One of the primary issues, according to Gibson, was that the city’s old ordinance did not have any limitations on how many animals an individual could own and had no way to enforce any limitation. The city chose to put a limit on the number of dogs and cats an individual could own. If a person lives on less than one acre, he or she may own three dogs and five cats. On more than one acre, an individual may own four dogs and six cats. The number of animals allowed was chosen based on conversations with neighboring cities and the number of pets their animal ordinances allowed.
However, Gibson also commented that the limitations were not in place because “we want to go around counting cats and dogs.” However, if a complaint is issued with animal control and the animal’s situation is deemed improper for either the health of the animal or the community, then the city can take action.
Tethering was allowable under the city’s old ordinance as long as owners walked the animal every eight hours. However, conditions in the city can be extremely cold in the winter and hot in the summer. With the new ordinance, tethering is now outlawed to promote better treatment of animals, especially dogs, in the city.
Previously, the city had issues with unlicensed breeders selling dogs on the side of the road, many of which were unhealthy or inbred. Through the new ordinance, the city requires all breeders to have a license to sell the dog or cat within the city.
In order to help control the pet population, the city of Natchez requires all cats and dogs to be spayed or neutered once they become of age, unless the owner obtains a breeding license. In order to own an unaltered animal, the owner must obtain a permit.
The animal control officer is a member of the police department. In order to assist the animal control officer in their position, the city has provided them with a new vehicle, training and uniform. As a part of the police department, the animal control officer can also receive backup from fellow police officers when necessary. When it comes to violations of any portion of the Natchez animal ordinance, those in violation may face misdemeanor charges, fines between $100 and $500, as well as up to 30 days in jail. “If you look across America, just about every shelter is crowded,” Gibson commented. The city is now looking for new ways to address finding homes for animals. His wife is also personally a part of the trap-neuter-release program. “I truly believe it is important to treat animals with extra care. We are better people when we show love and compassion to our four-legged friends.”
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