Taking back the neighborhoods

Published 7:51 pm Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Nederland revamps Animal Control ordinances to reduce strays

NEDERLAND — City Manager Chris Duque said most cities have an occasional “cat issue.” But the strays and descendants of former housecats swarming many Bulldog neighborhoods have elevated the situation in Nederland to a full-fledged “feral cat problem.”

Duque said Nederland Animal Control can’t collect the stray felines and put them up for adoption through the Nederland Animal Shelter off Canal Avenue, because the shelter can’t legally take in dogs and cats at this time.

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“By state law, we would have to make major modifications to our animal shelter in order to take in cats,” Duque said Tuesday. “We understand that’s an issue for our residents with all these stray cats roaming their neighborhoods, and our Animal Control officer has spent months working on potential solutions.”

So far, Nederland Animal Control Officer Dwayne Borel has come up with two solutions: a complete revision of the existing ordinances about animals within city limits and a new program to help residents spay and neuter their pets.

Nederland City Council has approved both measures, although neither is in effect just yet. Borel said the new initiatives, especially the updated ordinances, will help Animal Control contain the growing stray population.

Councilmen said they took “a step in the right direction toward public health” Monday night after unanimously adopting the new Animal chapter in the Nederland Code of Ordinances.

“Basically, everything that was in Chapter 10: Animals in the Nederland Code of Ordinances has been thrown out,” Duque said Tuesday. “That’s the important thing for our residents to know. This isn’t an amendment — it’s a complete redo. Many of our existing animal ordinances date back to 1987. Before now, it hasn’t been updated except to comply with new state regulations. Dwayne was very proactive in bringing us into the new century.”

Duque said many of the ideas from the existing ordinance are being carried into the new version, but nearly all of them have been rearranged, reworded and modified to fit the needs of the city today.

“In addition to general housekeeping and bringing the whole chapter up to date, we’ve added a few bigger items that didn’t exist before,” Duque said. “For example, Dwayne wanted to introduce ‘Standard of Care’ regulations. That was very important to him to protect the animals that are living within our city limits and to ensure their quality of life meets a certain standard.

“That new ‘Standard of Care’ section spells out the extent to which an owner is responsible to provide sufficient food, water, shelter and shade, as well as the conditions under which an animal can be contained, caged or chained. All of these items are explained in detail so there’s no confusion about proper animal care in our communities.”

The new ordinance assigns penalties for feeding any loose, stray or feral animals and provides a maximum number of adult animals a family may keep in a single residence.

“A lot of the new stuff you’ll see in the ordinance pertains to our feral cat problem. That’s a major issue we hope to control with the new sections and penalties,” Duque said. “To that end, feeding any feral or stray animals now comes with a $200 fine on the first offense. On the second offense, you get fined per animal.

“And we’ve assigned a maximum number of adult animals allowed per residence. You can have no more than five adult animals, and in this situation, ‘animals’ means dogs and cats. Birds, fish, hamsters, what have you — those smaller animals are classified differently and have their own sections in the ordinance.

“But you can’t have more than five adult dogs and cats in one home. I do not want another call from our Animal Control officer saying he went to investigate a complaint and found 90 cats crammed into one house. That happened just within the last year, and we’re not going to put up with it anymore.”

The ordinance creates several new fines for violations, including:

  • A penalty of $250 to $500 for each animal left unattended in a vehicle
  • A penalty of $250 on the first offense and $500 for each offense after in which a person sells or gives away puppies or kittens in a public venue
  • A penalty of $200 to $500 if a person is found abandoning or dumping an animal, alive or dead, on any public property, including the Nederland Animal Shelter
  • A penalty of $500 for each venomous snake or reptile found within city limits

Nederland City Clerk Gay Ferguson said the new Animals Chapter in the Code of Ordinances will go into effect Sept. 25. Residents are encouraged to check the requirements for their household animals to ensure they understand the new rules before enforcement begins.

Duque said Council is putting the final touches on the city’s new spay and neutering service for Nederland residents.

“We’re speaking with local veterinarians before Council finalizes the program, but Council has already set aside $5,000 for our new pet service,” he said. “As part of controlling our growing stray population, we’re going to facilitate spaying/neutering of pets in the city of Nederland.

“When Council begins the program, the service will be available to any dog or cat owner — until the $5,000 is spent. Once that $5,000 runs out, we’ll reassess. If the program is successful, we’ll allocate more funds toward that in the next fiscal year.”

For more information, call Duque at (409) 723-1503 or Borel at (409) 723-1541.

Twitter: @crhenderson90