Independence City Council members decided that proposed changes to city rules regarding animals was a bit too much for one sitting.
Many of the changes the city is considering to the city codes would clarify or clean up language that is outdated or redundant. But some changes – the ones that could possibly receive the most scrutiny from the council – address so-called “community cats,” the city's population of stray and feral cats. The council voted 5-2 Monday to send the ordinance back to city staff.
Before he made the motion to do that, Council Member Curt Dougherty said he had questions about implementing and paying for some of the changes, and if the council saw those changes over multiple ordinances, it could “Eat an elephant one bite at a time.”
“This thing is pretty thick; it's pretty full,” Dougherty said. “Myself and some of the others have some concerns that it may be too much to see in its entirety.
“I'd like to see it in smaller pieces so we can look at each piece individually.”
Furthermore, Dougherty said, the city is not under a time constraint to make changes due to grant funding or other reasons.
The changes would allow residents to provide food, water and other care for four or fewer feral or stray cats in their neighborhood provided they get the cats spayed or neutered. Owners who allow their cat to go outside would have to have the cat sterilized by the time it's 4 months old.
A colony – five or more stray cats – would be allowed with permission from neighbors. Colonies of 10 or more would not be permitted, though a caregiver of such an existing one would have a year to find placement for friendly cats.
The Great Plains SPCA animal shelter that the city contracts with is often at capacity with cats because it receives so many strays and can't adopt them out fast enough.
Mayor Eileen Weir and Council Member Scott Roberson voted against the motion to refer back to staff, but Weir said she understood the action.
“There's a lot of changes in there – some housekeeping things, but some things are significantly different,” she said. “I'm supportive of the ordinance, but I understand the council members' desire to break it into smaller pieces. This has many, many months, if not years of work put into it.”
“I'm supportive of the amendment as it stands,” Council Member Chris Whiting added. “I just want to make sure everybody on the council has their questions answered and are comfortable with it.”
Other proposed changes would outlaw roosters in residential zoned areas, call for rabies vaccinations in cats and dogs by four months instead of six, limit unsupervised tethering for outdoor dogs and change the current dangerous dog designation by breaking it into three categories – aggressive, dangerous and vicious.
• Aggressive dogs would be those that have made a minor attack on another domestic animal or displayed aggressive behavior. New owners of such a dog would have to be informed of the designation.
• A dangerous dog would be one that injures a person, or severely injures or kills a domestic animal. They would have to kept in a secure structure with a sign, and leashed and muzzled if on a walk.
• Vicious dogs would be those that severely injure a person and would have to put down or removed from the city.