Nuisance animal proposal too broad

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 4, 2000

Drive down an Ironton street and you will see firsthand that there is a real problem with stray, abandoned and neglected animals.

Friday, August 04, 2000

Drive down an Ironton street and you will see firsthand that there is a real problem with stray, abandoned and neglected animals.

There are literally more than 100 stray cats in the city alone. Some live in the wooded areas and some roam the residential streets. Most are sick, starving and unwanted.

There are plenty of stray dogs, too. They are left to roam the neighborhood without the benefit of a drink of water or a regular meal.

And then there are other animals that are simply ignored by their owners and allowed to run all over the city unchecked, upsetting garbage cans and getting into all manner of mischief.

The proposed changes to the city’s animal ordinances are supposed to go a long way to solving these concerns.

Unfortunately, this proposal would do little more than create more concerns and an enforcement nightmare.

Ironton City Council is on the right track and should be commended for its efforts to deal with a problem that has plagued the city for years.

But there are reasons to move slowly on this proposal and the first question lies in the definition of nuisance animals.

According to the amended ordinance, a nuisance animal is one that "digs, urinates or defecates on any lawn, tree, shrub, plant or building or any other public property."

Under those rules, half the animals in Ironton would fall into the nuisance category.

How would the ordinance be enforced and who would pay for the animals’ apprehension and incarceration? Then, who would make sure the fines get paid and the offense is not repeated? How would the rules be enforced fairly?

The answer is, no one really knows.

Passing an animal ordinance with a little more teeth to it is a good idea. But before the city jumps into a major overhaul, there are many details that need to be worked out.

Finding the right combination of enforcement and compassion will take more than three readings or an afternoon of debate.