A pack of animal ordinance updates was at the heart of heated debate Tuesday at city hall. According to city council member Joe Carter, the animals emerged victorious.
“I thought it was a real positive step forward for the animals of Norman,” he said.
Over the course of many hours, council members and residents took turns voicing concerns about the package, which included proposed changes on tethering, animals as entertainment, cats-at-large and owner relinquishment.
The new ordinances will take effect Sept. 1, giving NPD and shelter staff time to write companion policies.
Here’s what emerged:
• Cats at large: Under the rules, owners can allow cats to roam outdoors, provided they are current on vaccinations, have a valid pet license and either a collar with a valid city pet license attached or a registered microchip.
• Sale and disposal: An amendment dealing with the sale and disposal of animals not retrieved by owners also passed. It allows for animals in Norman Animal Welfare’s custody or Take Neuter and Return programs to be returned to their original location. It requires residents be notified when a cat is released on their street.
Nathan Kuhnert, Norman resident, voiced concerns about TNR not being an effective method for re-release. He said cats are disease carriers and a threat to birds. He asked the council to give the issue its own stand-alone forum, because of its divisive nature.
Carter agreed. He said many of the ordinance amendments are complicated and could be debated in more depth.
“We have this goal at the Animal Welfare Shelter to have 100 percent adoption of adoptable animals,” Carter said. “So, herein lies the issue: these feral cats are not adoptable, they are wild and behaviorally too aggressive for the most part to ever be able to adapt to life as a pet.”
Despite his opposition, the amendment passed 5-3.
NPD Capt. Brent Barbour said shelter space is limited and the amendment will help the shelter strengthen its no-kill mission.
• Tethering restrictions: The council unanimously passed an amendment which makes it unlawful for the owner of any dog or cat to keep or maintain their animal on a tie-out, tether, picket or similar device.
There are exceptions that can be granted by any animal welfare officer or commissioned police officer.
Mayor Lynne Miller, said she favored the amendment’s specific language.
“None of us want those animals out there on a chain all day and all night,” Miller said.
Ward 1 council member Kate Bierman voiced strong support, as well. She said she has received many complaints about animals being tied-out.
“I do support the way this is written,” she said. “I think that having the ability for [animal welfare officers] and commissioned police officers to provide exemptions will give us some important data as to what the need is for those exemptions and whether or not this ordinance is too broad or too narrowly defined.”
• Owner relinquishment: The council rejected the owner relinquishment of dogs and cats amendment that would allow the city shelter to select specific days and times for owners to relinquish pets. The only opposing vote was from Miller who said the council should help shelter staff as much as possible.
• Animals as entertainment: Several residents spoke for and against the amendment dealing with the use of animals for entertainment, such as the elephants at the Norman Medieval Fair, but ultimately the council withdrew the amendment.
Several on the council voiced concerns about the wording and asked that it be reworked.
• Reptile ownership restrictions: An amendment prohibiting residents from intentionally possessing or keeping large reptiles, which include any reptiles that exceed 40 pounds, without completing registration with the Norman Animal Welfare Center also passed.