ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany City Commission has granted authority to City Manager Alfred Lott to allow a group of citizens who review city policy to make a recommendation on whether cats should be considered "animals" for the purpose of being regulated by animal control officials.
Cats were intentionally excluded from the city's animal control ordinance when it was first drafted in the 1970s after some on the commission felt it impractical to try to force pet owners to keep their cats herded in their own yards.
But last year, the commission took up the issue after discovering that animal control officers had been illegally capturing cats in traps for years and amended the ordinance to include cats. After significant public outcry, the commission instituted a 90-day moratorium on enforcing any provision in the ordinance dealing with cats until a more comprehensive plan could be developed.
After nearly a year in development, city commissioners now want to see the issue move forward or die.
"People have a right to live in their house without having to worry about animals destroying their backyard," Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike said. "To keep postponing this 60 or 90 days each time this thing comes up ... These people have some real valid concerns."
Like Albany Audubon Society member Bill Bates.
"We have a cat problem in Albany," Bates said. "In my backyard -- being an Audubon member -- I have a bird habitat that I've planted. I feed my birds. I have birdbaths. I water my birds, and I go out in my yard and find a cat-killed bird. That is kind of upsetting.
"It's kind of like somebody else's cat has the OK to come into my yard and kill my pet, and to me that's not the way it should be."
Bates said that, at the least, the commission should consider requiring pet owners to tag and inoculate their cats so that animal control can more easily target feral, or wild, cats.
After discussion, the commission gave the go-ahead for Lott to convene the Citizens Advisory Committee -- a board of the city government that reviews policy from time to time -- to make a recommendation to the commission within 60 days.