The city can’t afford its own animal shelter, but with aggressive dogs occasionally attacking neighbors and feral cats roaming the streets, Mayor Gary McCarthy is working on a different solution: a regional animal shelter.
He had discussed expanding the private Animal Protective Foundation shelter, which isn’t large enough to handle the number of dogs and cats abandoned in the city.
But expansion costs too much, he said, so he’s started asking town supervisors if they’d contribute toward a county shelter.
“The problem right now is all the scenarios are too high,” he said of the cost. “So far I haven’t seen a plan that is financially viable.”
To make it feasible, it might need to be an even larger, regional shelter, he said.
Volunteers for the local animal rescue groups are eager to make it work — so eager that Filisia Ramdath asked the City Council to give the groups a vacant building and let them turn it into a shelter.
Although much of the labor could be done by volunteers, she conceded that the shelter would also need significant financial support from the city. It would need medical facilities, a kennel, and likely more than one veterinarian, she said.
Both Ramdath and McCarthy don’t know where the operational funds would come from, but McCarthy said Ramdath is right to ask for a shelter.
“I agree with them. There’s a problem there. The municipality ends up dealing with it, and none of the scenarios are cheap,” he said.
In the meantime, the city may take other steps to reduce the number of mistreated dogs and feral cats running loose.
Ramdath proposed regulating dog breeding and running an educational campaign to explain the importance of sterilizing pets and the dangers of dog fighting.
Both ideas can be accomplished at little cost, McCarthy said.
He wants to get Ramdath’s group to make education videos for the public access station. The city clerk’s office is also working on a campaign, but is understaffed, he said.
“We would like to do that,” he said. “We want a more aggressive campaign regarding dogs.”
Ramdath wants to stress that unaltered pets are breeding far too often — particularly cats.
A pair of feral cats and their offspring can produce 420,000 cats in a seven-year lifespan, according to animal groups.
There are also far too many dogs being bred, she said.
“The main problem is backyard breeders who are trying to make a quick buck,” she said. “They see that’s the way to make money. And when they have to move, they just leave them.”
She wants the city to require a license for breeding. McCarthy likes the idea.
“That’s an interesting point,” he said. “It’s something the city probably could do.”
He plans to look into it.
He and Ramdath also want to combat dog fighting, which may be more prevalent than crime statistics suggest.
Police have reported only isolated incidents, but Ramdath sees many abandoned dogs with injuries that she believes are caused by dog fighting.
“I find animals on the street who have broken legs, who have been bitten terribly,” she said.
Other dogs that they try to rescue are often too vicious to be saved, she added.
“Most of these dogs are not adoptable because they train them to fight,” she said.
McCarthy wants law enforcement to put a stop to dog fights.
“If dog fighting is more organized, we’ll focus city resources on it,” he said.