(MIAMI, Okla.) – A new ordinance has been enacted to help deal with the massive issue of stray cats, dangerous or unwanted dogs, and irresponsible pet ownership in Miami.
The Miami City Council approved the new Animal Control Ordinance which includes a “trap, neuter and return” policy for stray community cats. All dogs and other animals as listed in the ordinance brought to the shelter or taken in by Animal Control will be spayed or neutered and vaccinated, unless proof of such is provided, before release to owners or adoption proceeds.
“We wanted to put this information out now to give residents time to prepare for the changes called for in this new ordinance. We are still in the process of developing fee schedules, forms and fine tuning this ordinance as we begin implementing the changes,” Miami City Manager Bo Reese said, “Although the ordinance will legally be active in 30 days, we will be slowly introducing these new measures and working with residents when enforcement begins.”
The new ordinance gives Animal Control the authority to write citations and remove maltreated animals.
“The City doesn’t own any animals – we aren’t pet owners. We’re here to take in nuisance, problem, or aggressive animals for public safety,” City of Miami Public Works Manager Kevin Browning said.
All surgical sterilization and eartipping of stray community cats called for in the ordinance will be performed by a licensed veterinarian. Eartipping, or notching an ear, will be completed on community cats to mark and identify neutered animals then released.
Feral and stray community cats are estimated by several sources to have a 60 to 200 million population nationwide roaming the streets, alleys, buildings, and neighborhoods.
The city of Miami is no exception with hundreds of cats and kittens roaming the community. Animal advocacy groups strongly support trap-neuter-and return citing the extremely harsh lives of feral community cats who die from human animal cruelty and disease caused by cat overpopulation.
Feral cats are also responsible for killing billions of birds and mammals nationwide, so the policy draws support from wildlife organizations as well.
Browning said, “We’re going to ease into this. We’re not knocking on doors to see if animals are fixed. We’ve done everything we can think of, and this is a work in progress to address these issues.”
Browning said other communities who have enacted such policy and ordinance have seen up to an 80 percent reduction in community cat population. Experts say once 50 percent of the stray population is neutered, the animal population is under better control and healthier overall.
While feeding the feral and stray cat population may be done out of good intent and compassion for the animals, the new ordinance allows for feeding of community cats only by agreement with the Animal Control director. Feeding community cats only exasperates issues related to feral cat populations, according to the Animal Control staff.
A yearly renewable exemption certificate will be available for a fee to those Miami animal and pet owners who wish to opt out of the spay or neutering of their animals, or other measures called for in the ordinance such as limiting the number of animals a resident can own, now set at five per residence.
Commercial animal establishments within city limits such as kennels, breeders, and groomers will require an annual certificate of exemption. Fostering animals on behalf of the Animal Shelter and other animal welfare organizations for temporary care is allowable by permit. Certificates will be granted at the discretion of the Miami Animal Control Director. A fee schedule will be set by City Council.
These certificates of exemption do not exempt the person from any regulations against nuisances or other applicable restrictions.
The ordinance was created after months of research, discussion, debate and information gathering by the City administration, staff, Animal Control and city council to find solutions to the mounting problem.
The new ordinance will take effect in 30 days from September 19, 2022, on Oct. 19, 2022. The measures for neutering strays and animals brought to the shelter will begin at that time. Other portions of the new animal ordinance enacted will be phased in slowly before being more strictly enforced.
“We understand that this is not a fix all. We’re looking at a five-to-eight-year span to see a real difference. We’re rolling this out slowly and we can adjust as needed,” Browning said.
Overall, the ordinance calls for owners to provide basic care of food, water, shelter, and medical attention and/or grooming, if necessary, for all animals and defines these specifically. The ordinance makes it illegal for anyone owning or possessing an animal to subject the animal to cruel conditions, also specifically defined.