Council members were divided at Tuesday’s meeting, discussing the possibility of drafting an ordinance that would regulate the outdoor sale of animals in Huntsville.
The first reading passed with a 5-2 vote, with Ward 1 Council member Daiquiri Beebe and Position 2 At-Large Council member Dee Howard-Mullins voting against drafting an ordinance that regulate the sale, trade or donation of outdoor animals.
The ordinance would follow in the footsteps of existing ordinances in Houston, San Antonio, Austin and College Station, prohibiting the practice of individuals locating in the right-of-way or parking lots of local businesses to sell, trade or gift animals. .
The idea of launching a similar ordinance in Huntsville was brought to the attention of Ward 2 council member Russell Humphrey a year ago during a workshop meeting with Lori Toliver, executive director of Rita B. Huff Humane Society.
“It took that long to get it on the agenda, but now that it’s on the agenda, I’m very passionate about it. No, this ordinance isn’t going to solve our problem, it’s going to take many steps, but if we don’t take the first, there won’t be a second, ”Humphrey said.
“We see a lot of these animals that are donated and sold in the Walmart parking lot, the Taco Bell parking lot, we see a lot of these animals that usually end up in our shelter either sick, injured or unwanted,” Toliver said. . “A lot of these puppies, people just drive by and they make a 15 minute decision for a 15 year animal engagement, a lot of these animals aren’t spayed, they’re not spayed, they ‘don’t get spayed. don’t get vaccinated, they don’t just end up inside town, but they end up outside town as well.
Gretchen Browning, a Walker County citizen who lives six miles north of Huntsville in the extraterritorial jurisdiction, spoke firsthand at Tuesday’s meeting about the effects of the animal dumping in the rural outskirts of Walker County .
“I saw wagons full of students throwing them on the roads north of Huntsville. At the height of that, it was at least 10 a week that I saw being dumped, that I was trying to save, ”Browning said. “I saw a German Shepherd in the back of a pickup truck going at least 45 miles an hour on the side of the road with broken legs and broken ribs… anything I could do with this dog was to take him to a vet and have him put down he was only injured. If the city council is so concerned about the animals in this community, are you going to do something about the animals that are thrown in rural areas? ”Browning asked.
Browning attributes the problem in large part to the Huntsville student body, noting that the incidents have all but slowed down as the Sam Houston State University campus closed during the pandemic.
“If you care about animals, their welfare, that they are cared for, will you look at rural issues? Browning asked. “It’s sick, it’s disgusting and I don’t have the answer, but I hope some of you will find something.”
However, Mayor Andy Brauninger responded that any ordinance the council passes would apply to the sale or marketing of animals within the city limits and recommended that he contact County Judge Danny Pierce about his concerns.
“I think to stop it we have to preach sterilization and neutering, it will stop it before it even happens, the more we can spay and neuter, the fewer puppies and kittens there will be,” said Toliver.
Rita B. Huff and Mobile Pet Welfare Clinic, Dehart Veterinary Services, offer a low-cost spay and neuter program that all Walker County residents can use, but it doesn’t seem like enough . The problem seems to be convincing the community of the need to neuter and neuter their pets in the first place.
Passing an ordinance regulating the sale of animals to shelters and relocation facilities would ensure that vaccines and sterilization or sterilization practices would be encouraged, as most shelters offer in-house services at affordable costs. which would reduce Huntsville’s stray animal problem over time. Ultimately, the ordinance would also reduce the number of new animals dumped, due to the investment it simply requires adopting. Shelters and relocation centers typically screen their potential adopters, making sure they are aware of the financial responsibilities of owning a pet and have a longer and more thoughtful adoption process than an impulse adoption. would do in a parking lot.
However, board members drew the biggest divide over what would be done with Huntsville’s unwanted pets in the present, if owners could no longer sell or relocate their pets themselves.
Howard-Mullins expressed concern about drafting an ordinance prohibiting the sale of animals outside of a shelter or similar facility, due to limited resources in the community for owners to leave unwanted animals . As Rita B. Huff’s new shelter is still under construction, held back by soaring construction costs and a lack of supplies, the shelter remains unable to accommodate any capacity of animals. With Huntsville’s overwhelming stray animal problem, it would be impossible for the nonprofit to welcome all unwanted pets in the area as is, and without a functioning urban shelter at this time, the animals. would simply continue to be abandoned in rural areas.
“Passing this ordinance is not going to help the animals or the citizens of Huntsville at this time, perhaps after setting up an animal shelter where unwanted animals can go, this issue should be reconsidered, but for now, that will only cause more problems than good, ”said Beebe.
Kulhavy also noted that if the city prepared an ordinance and the council passed a violation of that ordinance, pet owners who chose to disregard compliance with the ordinance would be subject to a citation, with a tort of associated class D.
Howard-Mullins has expressed concern that those who choose not to sterilize or sterilize their pets may be forced to do so because they cannot afford the procedure.
“Before the council starts to impose restrictions, we should be able to say, if you don’t want these animals, you can put them back (where) and they will be placed, relocated, those who are sick will have other arrangements. But if our mindset is to just pass a purely punitive ordinance with no options for our citizens, I just don’t know about that, ”Howard-Mullins said.
“Anyone who thinks that this one prescription alone will be the answer to everything is unrealistic,” Humphrey said. “But just like a ladder, there are many steps on it. There will be many steps for the city to try to have a positive impact on the animal problem that we have in the city of Huntsville. Letting people distribute animals in the parking lot of Walmart, Taco Bell, or anywhere else that might have a disease that may or may not harm people, I think is irresponsible for the city. Our responsibility is to do what is best for the community and to let people distribute untested, untreated, unvaccinated animals… ”
“I think that’s a good question, but I think the hope is that if we have the ordinance on the book that people who are careless with these animals will think twice before taking care of these animals. the right way and maybe invest in a sterilization program that Rita B. Huff says she has for the public, ”Brauninger said.
Ward 4 council member Jon Strong recommended that council allow the first reading to pass, allowing staff to continue to explore the idea and prepare an ordinance that could be debated later.