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City Will Address Issue Methodically

By Staff | May 13, 2009

About 20 citizens gathered in the New Martinsville City Council Chambers Monday evening to complain about, discuss, and try to alleviate the problem of stray animals, particularly cats, in the city.

The final solution is to concentrate on one area of town at a time with cat traps in an effort to lessen the number of stray cats in one section before progressing to another part of town. Also, Animal Control Officer David Moore was instructed to begin issuing citations for having animals at large. The fine for a first offense is $50, $75 for second offense, and $100-500 for third and subsequent offenses.

“If we have to bring them to court, we’ll bring them to court,” said City Recorder Bonnie Shannon. She added that state code says animal control is a county function, but there is no requirement for the control of cats. In 1994 and 1995 the city had a terrible stray cat problem. “It was a lot worse back then,” noted Shannon. That was when the city decided to create its own part-time position of an animal control officer.

The position is designed for 20 hours of work per week, but currently he is only working on an on-call basis because the budget for this fiscal year is depleted. It will not be replenished until July 1. There was talk of making a limited commitment of funds to help address the problem before then.

The city does not have a leash law for cats. “There’s no accountability, absolutely none,” said Joan Frye, Wetzel County Humane Society. Unfortunately, she said a leash or registration law only affects people who take care of their animals. The others would probably fail to register theirs.

“In my opinion, if you feed a cat, they’re yours,” said Councilman Steve Pallisco. However, he said if you cite someone for a stray cat, they usually claim the animal is not theirs.

There is a city ordinance that requires cats to stay on the property of their owner. Obviously that is difficult to achieve without a leash, but troublesome cats can be trapped on other people’s property. If a cat is trapped or caught and taken to the city’s holding facility, it is kept there for a minimum of five days. If it is not claimed, then the animal is euthanized. The facility currently has the ability to hold four cats at a time.

The city has five traps at this time and will look into purchasing more. Also, it was noted that property owners concerned about stray cats on their property can buy and set their own traps. Then, when an animal is apprehended, they can call Moore to come and get the cat.

“That, in all actuality, would be a great help,” said Pallisco. However, Councilman Keith Nelsen said people need to keep an eye on the traps to make sure the cats are not released from the traps by their owners.