Middletown delays action on proposed animal ordinance after outcry

The city of Middletown is making changes to enforce a new, stricter animal control ordinance. The effective date of the new legislation will be March 1, 2019. One of the proposed changes to the policy would require all dogs, cats, and other companion animals to have proper identification such that the owner can be determined easily by the City. This would include a collar and registration tag with information or a microchip and eartag with information to a national registration database. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Public outcry over a proposal to adopt stricter animal control guidelines to battle stray cats and dogs in the city has prompted Middletown city officials to pull a proposed ordinance from next week’s City Council agenda.

At a public hearing last week, nearly a dozen residents and others voiced opposition to the proposed ordinance saying that it went too far and was an overreach by local government. Since the story was published in the Journal-News, there have been numerous comments on social media against the proposed ordinance.

Residents told the city council that the new rules would only punish those are trying to feed and help stray animals in their communities.

In a statement released late Wednesday afternoon, city spokesperson Shelby Quinlivan said, “Based on community feedback, Council and the City have decided to pull the animal ordinance legislation planned for the January 8, 2019 Council vote. The City will continue to research best practices to find a solution for the community.”

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Councilwoman Ami Vitori, who was not at last week’s meeting, said after reviewing information provided by some of the speakers at he council meeting and her own research, she wanted “to dig a bit deeper into fine tuning this legislation.”

Vitori said she could not support the proposed ordinance as written. She acknowledged the amount of time city staff has worked on the proposed ordinance but said she “would rather take time to start off our actions on the right foot and with the best practices and applicability possible.”

Officials said the city’s animal ordinance has been updated only once since the 1980s, and the lack of an animal control officer for several years has increased issues. Now, with an animal control officer hired, Middletown is hoping new regulations can further control the problem.

Some of the proposed regulations would have included:

  • Requiring all dogs, cats, and other companion animals to have proper identification so the city can identify who the owner is. This would include a collar and registration tag or a microchip and eartag with owner information to a national registration database.
  • Prohibiting keepers from allowing their dog, cat or other animal to become a public nuisance.
  • Limiting the number of household pets or dogs, cats, or other animals from creating a nuisance or be contrary to appropriate health and sanitary conditions.
  • Prohibiting people from knowingly or recklessly leaving food or any other type of feed outdoors unattended that would attract animals at large.
  • Mandating that keepers maintain their animals on their property, so they don't stray through neighborhoods.
  • Mandating that keepers control their animals in their complete care at all times, whether on a leash or by other means.

City Manager Doug Adkins told the Journal-News that there are thousands of stray cats throughout the city, which is the result of not having an animal control officer for the past several years. The city budgeted funding for an animal control officer in 2018 who is assigned to the police department. That person started working in mid-July.

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Since the city eliminated the animal control officer position in 2011, residents have stepped up and purchased food and covered the cost of spaying and neutering cats as the city was not addressing the issue. In a note to council last week, Adkins said city staff did pretty extensive research on the animal control ordinances and provisions that have been challenged and upheld by Ohio courts.

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