At the Wetzel County Commission meeting Tuesday, the room was nearly full for a follow-up meeting regarding handling the several cat problems in our county.
Community members Ken Showalter, Earl Yost, Paul Conner, Steve Palisco, Lucille Blum, Rosy Cozart, Leslie Manley, Suzie Hill, and Tim Haught represented county citizens, and city and county employees/officials. Cindy Brautigan, director of the Marshall County Animal Shelter, was also invited to the meeting.
Since last week's meeting, the City of New Martinsville is very close to hiring a qualified part-time animal control officer. Additionally, the commission and the city have intentions to meet for a formal meeting to communicate other actions that can be taken in efforts to reduce the feral cat population and enforce city codes and consequences to pet owners who violate city codes regarding pets and property.
The consensus at the meeting was that citizens are the real problem. In addition to a lack of responsibility and education in having cats spayed or neutered, it seems also true that the community doesn't thoroughly understand the rules, rights, and consequences set by the city ordinances.
Wetzel County Prosecutor Tim Haught outlined, "If you are a pet owner and your pet is off on someone else's property, it is trespassing. The ordinance says you are liable for any damages. The bottom line is, if your pet is euthanized, it's the owner's fault. You were breaking the law. The blame is not on trappers, it is on the pet owners."
Haught went on to advise cat owners to put a collar on their pet with an I.D. tag with the owner's name, address, and phone number. He also stressed for cat owners to keep their pets on their own property. Once a cat enters other property, the owner of that property has the right to trap and have the cat taken away and euthanized, as long as such procedures are done in the right, humane way.
Dropping cats off on a farm or any harmful means of extermination are not legal methods.
Furthermore, it was clarified that feral cats are considered varmints under the state code and can be trapped and euthanized immediately. Typically, non-feral cats are held at the animal shelter for five days before euthanasia.
It is suspected that many don't tag their cats to avoid fines if their cat is caught on another's property. However, it is heavily advised to tag pets to avoid being picked up at all, in addition to the other benefits in a properly identified pet. "It's common sense, and common courtesy," said Haught.
The city and the county commission are moving forward on this issue. Budgeting and other factors are still being worked out for the city to employ an animal control officer and make repairs on the cat shelter. Animal control will soon be in effect in New Martinsville and consequences to pet owner violations will be upheld.