Our four-legged citizens deserve more

Published 9:24 am Sunday, April 16, 2023

A little over a year ago, Natchez greatly improved our Animal Control Ordinance. In doing so, we outlawed inhumane tethering, leaving animals unsheltered, and selling of animals by unlicensed breeders.

We also strengthened our laws against other inhumane treatment of animals, such as breeding dogs for fighting, leaving animals unattended in vehicles, and limiting the number of dogs and cats individuals can own in the city.

We also provided specific penalties for individuals who allow their animals to be an endangerment to others or allow their dogs to disturb the peace of their surroundings. A major change also included a requirement that pet owners spay and neuter their pets.

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All of this is good. The city received many accolades for passing such robust reforms. It would be nice if the good news ended here, and we could say that everything is great. But enforcement has been another story – and while our goals have been admirable, the city has fallen short.

I am encouraged when people remind me that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” But it saddens me when animals continue to suffer in our city, and residents continue to deal with neighbors who are far from neighborly in the way they treat their animals and other homeowners who live around them.

Every day that passes without our doing our very best is not a good day for those who are most vulnerable around us. Our four-legged citizens deserve more, as do the rest of us.

Over the past few months, we have been working with various community partners to develop a better strategy for enforcing our animal control ordinance. Certain issues keep being raised, primarily the lack of space for animals that must be removed from improper environments, the lack of people standing in line to adopt homeless animals, and the continued prevalence of animals that have not been spayed and neutered.

I have good news: the city’s primary animal control partner, the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society, has helped us to find a solution. They have purchased a large building adjacent to their current facility, and the city is working now on a plan to lease it from the NACHS and retrofit it to accommodate the many pets that need rescuing in Natchez.

To make this happen, we are now pricing a punch list of needed improvements, and we will soon have a proposal ready for implementation.

In addition, we are now advertising for a second animal control officer – two are needed to keep up with the calls, to include after-hours. We also need this additional officer to help care for animals that will be kept in the new facility, and we have assigned a ranking police officer to oversee animal control and to help guide our implementation of other strategies: better enforcement of spay and neuter regulations, and transport of unadopted animals to other areas of the country where new homes might be found.

During this process, we continue to ask for patience. And we continue to express our gratitude for volunteers who sacrifice so much to keep our Humane Society going. It has been a pleasure working with them! And we are so grateful for this weekend’s “Poocha-Palooza” on the Natchez Bluff, raising money to help with the purchase of their new building!

We also don’t know what we would do without other community service organizations like Hoofbeats and Pawprints Rescue and Spay Neuter Natchez. Kathy and Jay Fitch and their team have helped relocate and rescue thousands of Natchez pets over the years, and Ginna Holyoak and her small army of volunteers have seen to the spaying and neutering of countless dogs and cats. These are truly the best preventive measures for the long run. And they need and deserve our support!

To donate to any of these worthy organizations, click on these links:

Natchez Adams Humane Society

Hoofbeats & Pawprints Rescue

Spay Neuter Natchez, mail donations to SNN, 96 Dunbar Road, Natchez MS 39120.

I ask everyone to support us in these important steps forward, not just for our furry friends, but because Natchez Deserves More.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.