Casper City Council Takes First Pass at Animal Care/Control Revisions
Casper City Council approved on first reading on Tuesday some revisions of the 2019 animal care and control ordinance.
Last year's replacement ordinance primarily targeted "reckless animal owners" who mistreat or abuse their animals, who harbor vicious animals, who allow their animals to run "at large," and who are repeatedly convicted of violations, which are misdemeanors. The revisions largely were the result of hundreds of reports of animal bites and attacks on other animals.
Since then, animal control officers have suggested changes to the code including adding or changing the definitions of "aggressive animal," "clean," "feral cat," "proper shelter" and "vicious animal," according to a memo from City Attorney John Henley to City Manager Carter Napier in the agenda for city council's work session on June 23.
During the public comment period, Justin Binfet, wildlife management coordinator for the Casper office of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said he favored the revisions, especially those concerning feeding wildlife -- especially deer and turkeys -- in city limits.
Feeding feral cats is another problem locally and worldwide because they kill huge numbers of birds, Binfet added.
In response to a question from council member Ken Bates, Binfet said the Natrona County Sheriff's Office is not interested in assigning deputies to monitor the feeding of wildlife outside Casper City limits.
The feral cat problem is much more difficult because it's hard to collect data on them because they're nocturnal and mostly solo, Binfet added.
But several residents voiced their objections to the proposed revisions, saying the ordinance is supposed to be in the best interest of the animal, and the revisions don't do that.
Linda Terrell said she would prefer a catch-and-release program for feral cats.
She and several others who spoke before the council also opposed the tethering provision of the proposed revisions.
Instead of residents being required to tether dogs for no more than two hours, the revision changed that to no more than 10 hours in 24 hours, Terrell said.
Tethering can damage a dog physically and emotionally, and long-term tethering can make dogs neurotic, anxious and aggressive, she said. "I know dog bites and dog attacks have been a big issue for the council and the city of Casper. Tethering a dog isn't going to make that better."
The council passed the revision on first reading.
However, Shawn Johnson opposed the revisions especially about banning feeding feral cats.
"I do think that there are other ways that we look at this," Johnson said.
"I don't think we should be criminalizing and creating crime where there really isn't crime," he said. "I think that's far too often the answer to everything -- criminalize it."
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