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A voice for the voiceless: Adopting the best ordinance for Stafford’s stray animals

By Donna Hill
For The Star

AvoiceThe City of Stafford is looking at updating its Animal Ordinance, and a change could be made later this year.

While updating, changing and amending the City of Stafford Animal Ordinance,

Stafford is compiling information and working with City Attorney Art Pertile to draw up a new ordinance.

On Feb 3, the public will be making comments on the ordinance, but nothing will be adopted until all sides are heard.

Through public hearings in the next few months, and final outcome of the ordinance will be available to the public, which will ultimately will help the stray and neglected animals in Fort Bend. Currently, Stafford has no animal shelter and its stray animals are housed at Missouri City’s Animal Shelter.

According to Stafford Mayor Leonard Scarcella, both Missouri City and Stafford have an excellent working relationship – with each doing a “great job of working with helping homeless animals find new homes”. “We have an ongoing 10 year agreement, and they have been excellent at helping these stray animals.”

Scarcella continued, “Obviously, both cities will outgrow the demand for housing animals. We are getting calls from Austin to Rosenberg and a dozen other cities for looking into this no kill ordinance and also for what is most humane for the animals.”

Local animal rights activists are setting up a model program or a no-kill program to help animals find homes.

Several animal advocate groups – such as Mutts & Meows, The Forgotten Pet Advocates, and Fort Bend Pets Alive (a sister company of Houston Pet Alive), volunteer Claudine Bass, says “the model for “Pets Alive” started in Austin, which is the largest no kill community in the nation.

Bass continued, “When animals are impounded, there are different ordinances as to what happens next. Fair chance for adoption is one. There are some animals, which nobody adopts and they are put down. What we are trying to do is to raise awareness. And the root cause of the problem is not getting information out about low cost spaying and neutering. This type of awareness can take care of the problems in the future.” Current animal advocacy groups want to create awareness in high traffic areas, such as public adoption events and various social media sites to help promote adoption. According to Bass, adoption awareness works as well because “if you adopt from any of the rescue groups, you free up space for the next dog or cat to get a chance to be adopted.”

Many abandoned cats roam areas of Fort Bend County – in both city and rural neighborhoods. In the Southmeadow neighborhood, stray cats are found often in backyards during the day – and night. Neighborhoods have contacted the Stafford Animal Control Officers about these problems and currently there is no cat trapping or relocation program. From a community perspective, it’s an issue that’s all too common.

Marlene Marino, Founder of The Forgotten Pet Advocates, finds abandoned animals from many different places. The problem is overwhelming. “We are for an animal ordinance to have provisions to mandate and sustain life saving programs in animal shelters. We need a compassionate, tolerant and progressive public policy to assure our 4-legged friends, not to have to suffer and not to be killed unnecessarily, out of convenience.”

Marino mentions Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) has been embraced by municipalities as the best means of reducing the feral cat populations. TNR of feral cats (homeless domestic animals who have to choice but to survive “in the wild”) is a humane protocol that gets results and save taxpayers money. “With TNR, cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, given a rabies shot, and returned to live out their natural lives.”. According to Marino, TRN is endorsed by many national and regional animal welfare groups. Communities practicing TNR see a reduction in shelter admissions and in euthanasia.

“It would be great to see a new shelter (in Stafford) start as a no kill shelter, but also if it can work hand in hand with awareness, too,” Marino said.

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