Saturday, July 20, 2013

City Staff Finally Hear Public Feral Cat Concerns

Local animal health leaders pressed their case this week to both San Angelo City Council and the City's Animal Services Board.  For a month the group shared their concerns over the City Animal Service's aggressive and intimidating action in regard to a feral cat colony behind a local restaurant.  Prior to these two meetings, city staff refused to budge.

Two citizens came forward at Tuesday's City Council meeting and educated Council on the city's heavy handed approach.  Their comments occurred during public comment and could not be acted upon by Council.  However, Mayor Morrison graciously heard these ladies and asked City Manager Daniel Valenzuela if he got the messages.  Daniel said he would follow up with a meeting.

The Animal Services Board meeting occurred on Thursday, where the issue once again arose.  Two veterinarians sit on the Animal Services board and were shocked at the City's hard nosed action on this feral cat colony, especially since both vets had donated time to spay/neuter a number of cats that the city shelter exterminated.   Fortunately, one veterinarian volunteered to lead an effort that would fulfill citizen requests by drafting ordinances supporting feral cat colonies instead of taking an antagonistic approach. 

The heavy handed methods, while briefly mentioned, at the Animal Services Board meeting were declared off topic by Assistant City Manager Rick Weiss.  This will likely be City Manager Valenzuela's next investigation.  Weiss would not be the person to conduct such an investigation, given more than an arm's length view is needed to ensure accountability.

The end result is the City backed off.  Leaders recalled the deadline on the cat colony in question, allowed the formation of a subcommittee to rewrite ordinances supporting feral cat colonies and expressed a willingness to partner with area animal groups already donating time and resources to address this community problem.

Citizen advocacy at two public meetings produced the impetus for change.  City leaders proved their ability to listen.  For that a number of citizens are grateful.  The true test is what happens next.  The city is capable of both lip service and collaboration.  Which will it be? 

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