COLUMBIA — Folks fretting about homeless animals in Columbia and others eager to help draft a new ordinance addressing overpopulation of unwanted pets will have a chance to do so at a public hearing Wednesday.
Residents are invited to attend a 6 p.m. public hearing in the City Council chambers on the fourth floor of the Daniel Boone City Building, located at 701 E. Broadway.
The Columbia/Boone County Board of Health is considering a new ordinance, member Nathan Voris said, because of recent financial and logistical difficulties faced by the Central Missouri Humane Society and related organizations.
According to Columbia/Boone County Environmental Health Manager Gerald Worley, who oversees animal control throughout the county, a city regulation charging residents three times as much to license animals that have not been spayed or neutered is the only ordinance that helps control the population of unwanted pets.
"The ultimate goal is to help reduce the number of unwanted animals that have to be destroyed," Voris said. "Right now, the way things are, for a variety of reasons, there are more and more animals that fit into that unwanted animal category, and we need to figure out a way to stem the tide."
"When you look at the shelters and you look at the animal control officers, both financially and with manpower, they're stretched to the max, they're working as hard as they can," Voris said. "We really need to work together to find a solution to this problem."
Voris said the public hearing will be held before the ordinance is written to "gather some public thought before there's anything put on paper." The board thought it was important to start with a public hearing, rather then present citizens with a prefabricated rule, Voris said.
"We can easily pick and choose different cities to model an ordinance after," Voris said, citing examples such as Austin, Texas. "That would be easy, but I don't know if that's the best way to do things."
"The public hearing is the very first step in the process," health department spokeswoman Geni Alexander said. "People are being asked to come and share their thoughts, those thoughts will be recorded and then the ordinance will be drafted."
"We hope that any stakeholder in the community that deals with overpopulation of pets will attend," Alexander said.
In this case, stakeholders include volunteers and administrators at pounds, shelters and humane societies as well as any interested members of the public, Voris said.