BLUEFIELD, Va. — Bluefield Town Council approved an ordinance Tuesday night related to nuisance animals.
Town Manager Mike Watson said the issue has mainly centered around feral cats and the ordinance allows groups to pick the animals up to be spayed or neutered to help curb the problem.
The issue surfaced last year when the town wanted to address what is considered a public nuisance and the purpose was to prevent feeding or generally encouraging the animals to gather and also to prevent wild animals to come into town because food was available.
Town Attorney Matt Friedman said when the ordinance was first proposed that the issue of public nuisance animals has become a concern for town residents because providing food for them can result in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
“It’s not aimed at any particular type or breed of animal.” he said. “What the aim of this ordinance is is to reduce or stop or have a way to improve unsanitary situations in the corporate limits of town.”
Animals, like feral cats, for example, can live in dilapidated houses or sheds.
This can create a public nuisance as well as lower property values.
Friedman said Virginia State Code refers to feral animals as companion animals and it’s a broad category that can include dogs, cats or about any animal that can be brought and sold.
A public hearing was held during this time and some residents wanted to look at ways of trying to save the animals, rather than stop providing them food.
Mayor Don Harris said some who attended the public hearing expressed support for the ordinance but there was “overwhelming support” to make sure the feral cats are saved.
The ordinance that passed Tuesday night was the result of coming up with an acceptable solution.
“I think everybody seems to be okay with it,” Watson said, adding that a spay and neuter program cuts down on the problem.
The concept is to work with the town when dealing with the animals, whether feral or home pets.
If a person has 20 animals, for example, and they are not spayed or neutered and not properly cared for, there is a penalty.
“However, if you are trying to get help with the situation and working with an organization to get them fixed to mitigate the nuisance we will work with you in order to do that,” he said.
Prevention is a key for mitigation, he added, and “what this does is make sure you are a good steward of your pets.”
As far as feral animals are concerned, Watson said the goal is to work with people who may be feeding them to get those animals spayed and neutered, give them shots and make sure they are treated humanely.
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com.