By Kaitlin Hoskins, News Editor
After several appearances on the City of Gadsden’s council meeting agendas over the last few weeks, an ordinance addressing the wild cat and dog population in city limits finally passed Tuesday, October 10, 2023.
The ordinance first appeared on the council agenda for the August 22 meeting. It was presented on first reading and was discussed at the following meeting on August 29, where it was tabled for three weeks to allow for input from a public safety committee meeting. The ordinance was then tabled again at the September 19 meeting, but this time for two weeks, to allow for more input from the public safety committee. It was then tabled once more, this time for seven days, to allow the legal department to time to make some adjustments to the language of the ordinance.
“After several weeks and a lot of hard work by individuals in this community and a lot of feedback from vested parties in this community trying to address the animal population issue…I would just like to thank Councilwoman [Dixie] Minatra for her efforts and research,” Councilman Jason Wilson said.
Commonly referred to as the “managed care of dogs and cats” ordinance, Ordinance No. 0-64-23 will require owners of dogs and cats within the city limits, of at least six months of age, to register their pets with the City of Gadsden for an annual fee or a lifetime fee.
To annually register a cat or dog with the city, owners must provide the name, breed, color, age, gender and other identifying characteristics of the dog or cat. Owners must also provide their name, address, telephone number and residence of the dog or cat. They must also bring valid proof that the animal has been inoculated against rabies in accordance with state and local laws. The cost of the annual license fee for spayed or neutered animals is $5 per registered animal and $50 for animals not spayed or neutered.
To be able to register the animal for its life, owners must provide certification that the animal has been spayed or neutered, as well as valid proof that it has been inoculated against rabies. The cost of a lifetime license fee is $10 per registered animal.
There are some exceptions for the ordinance to allow for low or moderate-income individuals to maintain their animals without undue financial burden. There are also exceptions for working animals such as military or police K-9s, as well as trained and approved service dogs. Animals competing in official events with accredited organizations, such as American Kennel Club shows or agility competitions, are also exempt from fees in most cases. Animals who are incapable of breeding or medically unsuited to undergo a spay or neuter surgery due to health concerns with proper and valid proof from a licensed veterinarian can be registered for a reduced fee.
“There will be a 30-day grace period,” Wilson said. “Warnings will be given out. You do have some time to get to the city and to get your animal registered without incurring any sort of penalty.”
The ordinance comes as a way to address the overpopulation of domestic animals in the city limits of Gadsden and encourage pet owners to spay or neuter their pets.
“The unchecked reproduction of domestic animals has led to an overpopulation crisis in our community, resulting in overcrowded animal shelters and posing a threat to public safety,” the ordinance states.
Once pets are registered with the City of Gadsden, they will be issued a metal tag or decal to affix to pet collars.
“Since I announced I was running for mayor, one of the top issues has been dogs and cats roaming our streets,” Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford said in a statement to The Messenger. “So, we are tackling that issue head-on. We began by negotiating a new contract with the Humane Society to open intake so the city’s animal control officers had somewhere to send the animals they picked up.
“Through the budget, we added new equipment, better pay, and additional positions for the animal control department. Now, we have an ordinance that will incentivize spaying and neutering dogs and cats while creating a system to return animals to their rightful owners more quickly to alleviate shelter space for strays. Through this ordinance, we also created a way to help finance a spay and neuter program, and I look forward to seeing the Humane Society launch that program so our community can be more proactive against the overpopulation of dogs and cats in our city.”
According to the ordinance, 50 percent of the proceeds of the registration fees will go to the Humane Society to support its spay and neuter program and the remaining 50 percent will support animal control administration within the City of Gadsden.
“I appreciate the hard work of Councilman Wilson and Councilwoman Minatra,” Council President Kent Back said. “This has been a long arduous process… but there had to be some kind of action taken.”
The ordinance went into effect Oct. 10 after its approval by the council.