Stray-animal measure to be considered by Anniston City Council
by Brooke Carbo
Star staff writer
Jun 09, 2011 | 4848 views |  20 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anniston City Councilman Ben Little is asking next week's session of the City Council to consider an ordinance that would prohibit the feeding of stray animals. He added the topic to Tuesday’s agenda.

Little said he proposed the ordinance because residents are concerned about their safety and the safety of their children.

“I get calls all the time about stray animals running around and people are afraid,” Little said. “People say they see these dogs run up and grab a child.”

The city already has an ordinance in place that requires animals at large to be taken up by animal control but Little said that people are feeding strays and not calling the proper authorities.

“They are running loose and staying loose because people are feeding them,” he said. Little said he hopes this ordinance will encourage these people to call animal control instead.

“It’s never a problem until someone is mauled by a dog or scratched up by a cat,” he said. “Then it’s a problem.”

Joe Richardson, Chairman of the Board for Sylacauga’s Animal Rescue Foundation, has spent more than 25 years working with animal shelters including serving on the board of Birmingham’s Humane Society. He said he can’t speak for his board, but if such an ordinance were proposed in Sylacauga he would oppose it.

“I would have to fight it very vigorously,” Richardson said. “I understand people’s frustrations, but this is not going to alleviate the problem. In fact it might make it worse.”

Richardson cautioned that animals become more aggressive when food is scarce and if previously available food sources dry up, stray animals that were once gentle might become a threat.

He encouraged Anniston’s council to instead work with state Sen. Del Marsh on passing a statewide spay-and-neuter requirement.

Marsh has supported such legislation in the past and a bill he sponsored ending the use of gas chambers in euthanizing shelter pets was recently passed by the Alabama Senate.

"In preparation for the last day of what has been the most productive legislation session in decades, Senator Marsh hasn't had an opportunity to review the ordinance or speak with his constituents," Derek Trotter, Communications Director for Marsh, responded in an emailed statement.

Richardson said spaying and neutering to prevent unwanted pets was the only way to resolve the problem adding that the cost to spay or neuter a stray animal is about the same as housing and euthanizing it.

“We have to deal with the human issue first before we take it out on the animals,” he said.

The board of Anniston’s animal shelter declined to comment.

Little insisted that the ordinance is not meant to harm any animals. “It's not that we don’t want to protect the animals, we want to do that too,” he said. “If you know where they are, let the city know. We’ll come and try to catch them.”

Jim Armstrong, a professor of Forestry and Wildlife Science at Auburn University, said he didn’t think the ordinance would increase the number of strays being captured by animal control but said it was a good idea to not feed them because most are not vaccinated and could spread rabies and other diseases to household pets.

“Pets serve as a bridge between people and wild animals,” he said.

When asked how the ordinance would be enforced Little answered that he hoped people would just stop feeding strays but other measures would be considered.

“If there is a known area where dogs and cats congregate and people are feeding them you put cameras up and catch them,” Little said.

Cliff Adams of Anniston laughed when asked what he thought of the proposal. “I’ve never thought of it because I never thought anyone would come up with it,” he said. "I don’t care if it’s an animal or a human, if they're hungry I can’t see any reason not to feed them.”

A pet owner for 17 years, Adams said he couldn’t imagine what the benefit of the ordinance would be. “To think that if my dog somehow got loose, that someone would just let it starve," he said. "Just do the human thing."

Deborah Godby, President of the League for Animal Welfare, agreed. “I cannot see an animal starve to death. I’m sorry.”

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