Archive for Thursday, May 5, 2011

Opinion: Commending the council

May 5, 2011

Kudos to the Tonganoxie City Council for considering updates to the current Animal Control ordinance, which has not been changed since the 1990s. This window of opportunity for Tonganoxie residents is golden — but will be short-lived, as the Council votes May 9th on the proposed changes.

Leavenworth County Humane Society was happy to offer input on the proposed changes, both by email and in person at the council meeting on April 25. It's unfortunate that none of that discourse was reported in The Mirror. Citizens need to know that the changes under consideration may make things worse instead of better for people and pets in Tonganoxie, and that areas for potential improvement are intentionally not addressed.

Proposed changes will limit each household to no more than 4 total dogs and cats, whether the household is located on 600 square feet or many acres. Some people can adequately care for a dozen pets, while others can't take care of one. Why not focus on humane care, and being a good neighbor? Keeping the property clean, not allowing pets to be a nuisance by wandering or barking?

Licensing fees and fines are being raised, with services provided unchanged, or potentially scaled back. There is little incentive to register pets when owners see no benefit to compliance. With nearly 5,000 residents, and an estimated 2,500 pets in Tonganoxie, it's time to consider retaining a dedicated animal control officer for the City, or training, equipping and requiring members of the Police Department to perform Animal Control functions.

City officials are choosing not to consider changing the City's appearance-based ban. Irresponsible owners, and behavior — not appearance of pets — is what makes dogs dangerous. Enforcing appearance-based bans can be expensive, and discourages responsible pet owners from registering pets and living in Tonganoxie. Choosing to institutionalize media-inspired fear and discrimination is a slippery slope. Do citizens want to decide what people are allowed to live in City limits based on appearance? Then why judge dogs that way? Appearance doesn't make a person or a pet criminal — behavior does. Why not focus on dangerous dogs, and dangerous owners?

Sadly, many domestic pet cats are abandoned to the streets by irresponsible owners. These cats often learn to fend for themselves, but become unsocialized to humans. They are feral — domestic in genetics, but wildlife in behavior. The lucky ones find food and shelter with caregivers, who do not own the cats, merely help them survive. Cities across the nation are recognizing the status of these community cats, instituting trap/neuter/return programs that keep the cats healthier, and prevent unplanned breeding. Feral cats are no more a threat to wildlife than other wildlife. It's human activity that degrades habitat, and owned cats who are allowed to roam that threaten bird populations.

A positive in the proposed ordinance is limiting the duration of tethering for dogs. Tethering does not replace training and socialization. Tethered dogs are prone to being forgotten, neglected, and becoming frustrated, destructive, and dangerous.

Citizens of Tonganoxie who know that behavior - not appearance - is dangerous, those who care about maintaining their rights to responsibly keep pets, those who are compassionate and humane, and even those who oppose improving the quality of life for people and pets in Tonganoxie should contact Council members, the City Administrator, the Police Chief, and the Mayor, and let them know how you feel, and what you want - before May 9th.

Though our capacity for intake of pets is limited by the availability of foster homes, Leavenworth County Humane Society remains committed to assisting the residents (people and pets) of Tonganoxie with Trap/Neuter/Return, low-cost spay/neuter transports, humane education, and advocacy.

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