City votes to rewrite leash law

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, September 14, 2011


NATCHEZ — Concerned cat owners packed the Natchez City Council Chambers at Tuesday’s Natchez Board of Aldermen meeting to get some answers from the board about a solution to the cat killings that started in July and have claimed the lives of between 35-50 cats.

Ginger Hyland appeared before the board to ask that a second animal control officer be hired for night patrol and a citizen committee be established to make leash law fines easier to impose on irresponsible dog owners. Hyland said another cat was killed Monday night.

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Hyland said Natchez cat owners are emotional and feel nothing is being done about this problem.

“I would rather see the resolution come from you working together rather than coming from people who get so emotional and excited that they do something themselves,” she said pointing to the crowd.

Most of the people present at the meeting echoed her opinion with applause.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis made a motion that was approved to have the leash law rewritten and harsher penalties put in place for owners, which will be specified when the new leash law is drafted.

Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton said everyone was working very hard to curtail the problem with the loose dogs. Middleton said he would work with Natchez Police Chief Mike Mullins, who has had two of his own cats killed, and Natchez Fire Chief Oliver Stewart to see if there was an available police officer or firefighter to patrol at night.

“I’m going to instruct Mike to tell these officers that are taking these calls to take them more seriously,” Middleton said.

Mullins suggested that the city have a part-time nighttime animal control officer with a published cell phone number so people could call if the dogs were sighted or an attack took place.

Ward 2 Alderman James “Ricky” Gray voiced concerns of the safety of a nighttime animal control officer.

“We have people robbing people and people that will shoot people running through their yards,” he said.

Gray suggested the leash law fine be doubled from $200 to $400. He said a repeat offender should have to pay $800, and that after a third offense, the dog should not be returned the owner.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard suggested the city look into setting traps with mechanical cats that simulate cat noises and movements.

Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery said he has been asked why a leash law is not in place for cats.

Hyland pointed out that when the attacked occurred, all of the cats with owners were on their owner’s property.

Hyland said she believes it would be smart to consult animal control in larger cities that deal with dog attacks and see how it’s handled. She said, however, getting a nighttime officer is the most important step to eliminating the attacks right now. Hyland said a tougher leash law and an official place to record attacks would aid in further attacks and leash law violations.