Phoenix panel weighs changes in cat rules

City Council is expected to review the advisory group's ideas next month

PHOENIX — City Council members won't review proposed ordinance changes for dealing with wandering cats and residents who trap them until next month.

Appointed to discuss city ordinances for dealing with animals found wandering "at large," which is prohibited in Phoenix, the trapping advisory committee met Monday to hash out some basic ground rules.

Changes discussed include doing way with an existing ban on wandering cats, requiring a permit for residents who wish to trap roaming felines and ensuring any trapping is done humanely.

Resident Steve Kious, speaking in favor of stricter rules for trappers, was pleased with the group's open dialogue on Monday.

Others in attendance included residents Louis Junghans and David van de Velde, who spoke in favor of more accountability from pet owners, and Laurie Jeandin, whose own cat was trapped by a neighbor and who hoped for stricter standards for trappers.

City manager Eli Naffah noted that, in reviewing existing ordinances, city officials learned that the city code does not specifically prohibit cats but does not ignore them either. Instead, the ordinance prohibits any type of animal from wandering at large.

The committee proposed allowing outdoor cats, as most cities do, by specifying that "domestic cats may be allowed to run at large provided the cats are not nuisance animals as defined in this code."

Nuisance animals would be defined as any animal, from dogs and cats to llamas and goats, that damages property, bothers individuals of "normal sensibilities," causes unsanitary conditions, repeatedly trespasses and a handful of other things.

City officials established the committee after residents in a neighborhood off Colver Road voiced concerns last month about a neighbor trapping pet cats and leaving the animals in hot summer temperatures without access to water or shade.

While outdoor cats are not allowed under the existing ordinance, the rule is rarely enforced and a handful of cases have cropped up over the past year in which cats were trapped or poisoned in various sections of town.

Monday's meeting generated suggestions ranging from ensuring traps were kept in areas to minimize harm to the animal to charging for trapping permits.

Jeandin suggested city-issued traps with water bottles hung on the outside to provide water while avoiding water spilling on cats during the winter.

Junghans jokingly suggested that if residents couldn't manage cat trapping around busy work schedules, the mayor should be required to deliver trapped cats to county animal control.

City attorney Kurt Knudsen on Monday cautioned committee members to be sensitive to the city's limited resources.

Naffah commended the group for its productive dialogue and attempt to consider both sides of the issue.

"(During) the first meeting there was definitely a little more tension," he said. "I think they're doing a good job."

While city officials anticipated an ordinance review for Monday's meeting, Naffah said he wanted to thoroughly address all possible issues.

"My main concern is to make sure we get a good ordinance that will treat the issue fairly on both sides. If it takes longer, then it's worth it for the community," said Naffah.

A second committee meeting is planned for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24.

A first reading could take place Monday, Oct. 1. A second reading would be required, likely on Monday, Oct. 15. The revised ordinance would take effect 30 days from the second reading.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.


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