Mayor: Leash law will be enforced

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 10, 2005

With warmer weather approaching, it’s only natural that more people are going to be out and about in the fresh air and sunshine. Unfortunately, according to mayor Cecil Williamson, many Demopolis residents have recently let their animals out and about as well, without the fencing or leash city law requires.

“The last two or three weeks I have received an inordinate number of complaints from citizens regarding animals,” Williamson says. “One man who keeps two elderly cats in his garage told me that dogs attacked one of his cats right there in the garage. A woman came in to see me the other day and told me she had so much dog poop in her yard from her neighbor’s dog she couldn’t walk across it. She keeps her dog inside a fence, but she said ‘I can’t get in my yard for the mess made by this other dog.'”

Lucille Carpenter, an official with the Demopolis Street Department and Animal Shelter, says that the increase in complaints isn’t a fluke or coincidence.

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“There has not been an increase in the stray population,” Carpenter said, “but there has been an increase in people letting their dogs run loose.”

Carpenter said the Street Department, in accordance with a request from the mayor’s office, would be making a greater effort in the coming weeks to enforce the city’s dog ordinance.

“We have always tried to enforce the leash law,” Carpenter said. “But we’ve been short of manpower, and then with the hurricane coming through, things were getting lax. We just got enough manpower back, though, and we’re going to be in full swing. We do patrols daily, and sometimes at night, randomly checking for dogs.”

The law the Street Department will be enforcing is a simple one, Williamson says.

“Any dog within the city limits must be restrained by a fence or tether,” she says. “We want to make a plea to Demopolis citizens to please abide by that law…people just aren’t having the respect for their neighbors they should.”

Williamson added that the city’s leash law isn’t intended solely for the protection of its human residents.

“It’s a safety issue for citizens, but it’s also for the safety of the pets,” she says. “Dogs running loose are much more likely to be hit by a vehicle or encounter other safety hazards. The law is for their protection as well.”

Carpenter said that if the number of loose dogs did continue to rise, the city could experience a spike in the number of strays.

“When people do that,” she said, “it results in more mixed breed puppies, which does cause a lot more strays.”

If residents have a complaint or are aware of a stray in their area, Carpenter said the proper course of action was to alert the Street Department, who would make their best effort to capture the animal.

“They should contact us,” she said. “If we can’t catch it, we set out a trap that does not harm the animal. We place food in it, and when the animal goes in a door closes behind it. We check it regularly, so the animal won’t have to stay in it overnight or in the rain.”

If stricter enforcement does result in an increase in captured animals, a problem could arise with the capacity of the Demopolis dog shelter.

“We do get overfull from time to time,” Carpenter said. “When that happens, we have to go on and euthanize the animals.”

Carpenter wished to make clear that whenever the pound is not at full capacity, the shelter’s staff makes every effort to avoid having to put the dogs to sleep.

“We’re supposed to keep the dogs for eight days before euthanizing them,” she says, “but we only follow that if the animal is mangy or sick. Otherwise we try to hold onto them and find them a home.”

Even an eight-day waiting period is more than the shelter can offer lost cats, however, since it has no facilities in which to keep them.

“We have no place to house cats,” Carpenter said. “When we catch them, they have to be euthanized.”

Williamson said that although there was no specific city ordinance dealing with cats, she has received complaints about their activities as well.

“We had one woman who told me she’d put up a bird feeder,” Williamson said, “but instead it’s become a cat feeder. The neighbor’s cat comes and kills and drives away the birds.”

Whether it’s a dog or cat or goldfish or Australian sugar glider, Williamson just wants residents to respect their neighbors and their pets’ safety by adhering to the city’s laws.

“What we’d like to do is just make citizens aware,” she said, “and ask them to please keep their pets at home.”

The Street Department can be reached from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 334-289-3879. After 3 p.m., concerned residents should call 334-289-3072 and the emergency dispatch office will send animal control to the specified location.