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Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Residents complain to council about cat trapping

By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS - Local animal advocates voiced concerns about a recent incident of live trapping of cats during a lively session of Monday's city council meeting.
In response, council considered and passed the first reading of a proposed amendment to city ordinances concerning control of cats.
Resident Judy Weng, who brought the matter to the attention of five council members more than a month ago, said following the meeting, that the entire problem has been turned into a "big can of worms."
"This has become a total mess. I don't want cats to have to be registered or be on leashes. I simply want the criminal who has confessed to the police that he trapped two neighborhood cats stopped.
"I want the loophole in the law fixed so people can't steal pets from fenced yards, lure them another yard and trap them," Weng said.
She described the incident that brought this matter to council: In late summer/early fall pet cats went missing from the St. Marys neighborhood where Weng has lived for 35 years.
A neighbor, who is still missing two cats, told Weng that there was a trap in the back yard immediately behind her. When questioned by the police, the man trapping the cats admitted his acts and releasing them somewhere in the country. "He would not tell where he dropped the animals. So we had no information where to find the pets," Weng said adding that the trapper was in attendance at the safety meeting.
"(Law Director) Kraig Noble told me the city's trapping ordinance only pertains to wild animals and the man trapping our cats cannot be prosecuted ... The service director (Tom Hitchcock) told me the city can't just pass an ordinance; that he needs to talk to the (trapper) and talk to the community," she said
Weng has contacted the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the American Humane Society. She has provided names and addresses of those involved. ASPCA and PETA are interested in the matter and have offered to help. "Their mission is to make the police department enforce laws," she said.
She believes the law has been broken in this matter and seems to be clearly a case of cruelty to animals.
Incidental to the topic was resident Bob Valentine's contention that last week's safety committee meeting violated the open meetings law. Law Director Kraig Noble said the meeting was conducted legally.
All council committee meetings are public and are typically announced at the prior council meeting, as was the case with the recent safety committee meeting. Only special meetings require special notification for the public.
However, it appears that this meeting was a special meeting based on the fact that the majority of council members attended and participated in the committee discussion. Committee meeting minutes indicate only council member Mike Kleinhenz did not attend. Also on hand were: Mayor Greg Freewalt, Service Director Thomas Hitchcock, Noble and Police Chief Greg Foxhoven.
The minutes do not recount any discussion that took place.
As to public notification, according to the Ohio attorney general's office: An interested party may request personal notification from a government body of all public meetings ... A person is guaranteed by law the right to attend a public meeting but not the right to be heard. A disruptive person waives the right to remain and observe the meeting and may be removed."
Second reading of this ordinance is expected to take place at the next council meeting on Nov. 9.
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