Commission to review animal ordinance

ALBANY -- Albany City Commissioner Roger Marietta will work with community members and city staff to develop a proposal for changes to the city's animal control ordinance following a discussion Tuesday by the Commission.

Marietta requested that discussion of the ordinance be placed on Tuesday's agenda during the Commission's last work session because of what he said were unintended issues that have arisen out of the body's decision to amend the ordinance and strike a long-held exception to cats.

That exception has riled local animal activists who say that by including cats in the animal ordinance, it obligates cat owners to try and wrangle a pet that is notorious for being of a free-roaming nature.

Marietta asked the Commission Tuesday to consider forming a committee of government leaders, staff and concerned citizens to study the ordinance and make a recommendation to the full commission about any possible changes.

"We didn't envision putting cats literally on leashes as the media has pointed out," Marietta said during the meeting. "It's something that needs to be looked at, I think, and it would help if we got the community involved."

City Manager Alfred Lott lobbied for some reference to cats in the ordinance, saying that 50 percent of animal control calls are dedicated to "wild, stray or problem cats," but added that there was no intention on behalf of the staff to get owners to put their cats on a leash.

Commissioner Bob Langstaff was interested in ordinances used by other cities and how they have dealt with similar issues.

"Some cities," Lott said, "require cats to be tagged and licensed, and any that aren't are picked up. That may be one avenue to pursue."

The change to the ordinance was prompted by city leaders' concerns that the ordinance's exception to cats may have barred the practice of trapping cats -- a practice the city has undertaken for years, city officials say.

To further complicate matters, the use of cat traps would be problematic if used near residential areas because the traps don't distinguish between licensed or tagged domestic cats and feral cats.

Mayor Willie Adams said he was concerned about the feral cat population growing to the extent that it would promote the spread of diseases like rabies, which would be harmful to humans if there was contact.

Following discussion, the Commission moved to allow Marietta to work with staff and concerned citizens in the community to hammer out kinks in the ordinance before presenting a revised version to the full Commission for consideration.