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Nitro to restrict number of pets residents may own

By Bridget May

In hopes of getting a handle on the ever-increasing number of feral cats wreaking havoc in city limits, Nitro City Council members will change a local ordinance governing how many pets each resident may keep.

"It's really a nuisance in our area," Nitro Ordinance Committee member Hershel Facemyre said of the strays.

The cats are having litters under city buildings and killing birds in neighborhoods, officials said. Many are showing up dead on city streets.

The city has some houses that have an exorbitant amount of cats and "it is starting to take a toll on the bird population," Mayor Dave Casebolt added.

Ordinance Committee members recently hashed out amendments to Ordinance 505, which regulates animals and fowl in city limits.

The amendments would limit a household to three dogs and three cats. That includes strays that a resident might simply be feeding.

Council members approved the amendments Oct. 2.

Kristen Strickland, humane officer for the Dunbar-Nitro Humane Office, is in favor of the restrictions. She said feeding feral cats is considered harboring the animal.

"I think it's going to be good for the city," she said. "There are a lot of feral cats."

Police Chief Brian Oxley said residents call the department daily "about animals that don't have the proper housing, animals that aren't properly pinned, and they call in about wild cats."

Pet owners with more than the allotted number of pets will be grandfathered in and exempt from fines, provided they can prove they owned the animals prior to Nov. 1, the date the ordinance is set to take effect.

Ordinance Committee member John Montgomery said pet owners would need written witness statements from unrelated parties, veterinarian bills, and other documentation to show they owned the animals before that date.

However, in the event that a pet dies, pet owners who are grandfathered in must submit an application for a special permit with a humane officer if they want to adopt another pet.

If a pet owner's dog or cat has a litter, they must find new homes for the puppies or kittens within 90 days. The ordinance originally called for 30 days. Breeders may apply for a kennel license to circumvent the ordinance.

The responsibility of enforcement falls to Strickland. She will field all calls regarding feral cats, set the traps and take the animals to the Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association shelter on Greenbrier Street in Charleston.

A $50 fine will be assessed for first-time violations, and a $100 fine will be charged for subsequent violations.

Council members expect the initiative to dramatically decrease the number of calls related to feral cats.


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