Sunday, July 28, 2013

Overreaching Animal Enforcement Continues

Feral cat colony volunteers directly experienced City Animal Control Officers heavy handed tactics.  They banded together with community animal service organizations to challenge officers' abuse of the law and get the intimidation stopped.  Those same organizations received reports from citizens of similar abuses. 

The city only sees one type of cat, the family pet.  It makes no space for feral cats.  The pattern has officers threatening citizens with arrest for feeding cats.  Animal Control Officers do not have the ability to arrest anyone.  Officers ordered citizens not to feed, which violates a city ordinance on animal cruelty.  They left at least one citizen with a poorly-worded letter threatening a $200 fine if the problem wasn't completely resolved within ten days.

In one case officers declared the cats a nuisance.  City ordinances have a clear procedure for declaring an animal a nuisance.  It involves the Municipal Court and gives both parties a chance to be heard.  This procedure was not followed.  Animal Control willfully ignored the nuisance city ordinance, then ordered citizens to violate another city ordinance, to impart cruelty to cats. 

It takes a citizen complaint to get authorities, like the Texas Rangers involved.  So far no one has come forward to make an official complaint.  If Animal Control continues their heavy handed, legally questionable tactics, it's a matter of time before they threaten a citizen willing to stand up for their rights.

Two voices came forward at the July 16 San Angelo City Council meeting.  They made two requests.  Back off on hyper-enforcement.and rewrite animal ordinances to make space for feral cat colonies.

A subcommittee to rewrite ordinances has been established, with at least one questionable appointee.  Given citizen intimidation continues, it looks like surface accommodation to date.   As City Manager Daniel Valenzuela plays the bad hand he inherited, we'll find out if the city is capable of true cooperation .

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