BISBEE — After hearing complaints from some residents about certain changes to Bisbee’s animal ordinance, the mayor and city council determined the best way to move forward was to appoint an ad hoc committee to address the main concerns.
In a work session Tuesday, a number of citizens voiced opposition to an article in the code which would ban feeding feral cats, and others regulating livestock and beehives kept in the city limits.
Feral cat colonies have been a problem, particularly on Brophy Ave. in Old Bisbee, said Mayor David Smith. The city has a current trap, neuter and release (TNR) program, which also provides cats with rabies vaccinations, and returns them to the neighborhood where they were picked up.
The idea is the colonies will eventually cease to exist since the cats cannot reproduce. But, there can still be problems of disease, odors and impacts to avian species, which concerns some residents.
Smith said staff, including City Manager Theresa Coleman and City Attorney James Ledbetter, worked on the changes for the health and safety of the public and to provide a more humane method in helping injured or sick animals.
Ledbetter told Smith and councilmembers Anna Cline, Joan Hansen, Bill Higgins, Joni Giacomino and Louis Pawlik that most of the wording in the ordinance has been in effect for 90 years. Staff spoke with veterinarians, the Humane Society and the American Bird Association to get feedback on feral cat colonies.
As for beekeeping, many other cities have regulations on hives, particularly those in close proximity to neighboring yards. Bees in Arizona are all Africanized according to “Killer Bee Guy” Reid Booth and many experts in the field.
City staff has suggested a permitting process which would be approved by the city manager on a case-by-case basis under the new code, continued Ledbetter.
Livestock already owned by residents, including goats, donkeys and horses, would be allowed to remain until they died, but new animals would require a permit also approved by the city manager, he added.
Radi Ann Porter raises chickens for eggs, and said the city should be flexible and not limit the number of chickens to six so she can sell eggs at the farmers market and to individuals.
“I can have chickens if I take care of them,” she said. “There needs to be a more flexible approach to recognize what is the nature of our community.”
Holly Kemp also spoke on behalf of those who raise chickens and livestock, as the growers share with the community, which benefits residents.
Dana House, owner and chef at the Quarry restaurant, tends a feral cat colony of about 45 felines on Cochise Row, and has had success maintaining their health after TNR.
“We used to have cats dying in the streets,” she said. “This year, we had only one. We’ve been highly successful with our cats.”
Council member Hansen stated, “I’d like to see the people who run the shelter be responsible for the feral cats, TNR and how it will work. We should have specific people who feed the cats. We need experts to do this and we need more data. We created this problem and we have to do something about it.”
Council member Higgins remarked, “It’s about being good neighbors. If you have livestock, you have to keep it clean. They stink, make noise and attract flies. There has to be some control over it. I like bees, but I have no issue with the city manager approving permits. If you’re a responsible person, you should be a responsible beekeeper.”
Mayor Smith noted the main objections were only to a few parts of the proposed code, not the whole ordinance, which adds in a leash law omitted in the last update and bans dog fighting. He also noted some of the those who objected to the ban of feeding feral cats had complained directly to him about the colonies and the odors.
In light of the conflicting opinions, Smith suggested the ad hoc committee be formed and asked Kelly Galligan, coordinator at the Bisbee Animal Shelter, and Kathy Sowden, Friends of the Bisbee Animal Shelter, to serve on the committee. They agreed.
Residents can volunteer to serve on the committee by filling put an application, but interested people must move quickly.
Smith will make the appointments at the next meeting, Feb. 4. The committee will then discuss options and present their findings to the city attorney and city manager and the council will discuss the new ordinance and changes at the April 7 meeting.