The feeding of stray cats in Hulen Park or elsewhere in Cleburne is now unlawful.
Cleburne city council members approved that and other ordinance and definition changes related to animals during Tuesday’s council meeting.
The ordinance change prohibits feeding wild and stray animals in addition to feral and/or community cats as well as the placing of food with the intent of feeding such animals.
“We’ve found that feeding cats leads to bigger litters and more feral cats and also attracts more wild animals to the area,” Cleburne Animal Shelter Manager Mindy Henry said.
The exigent circumstances ordinance approved by council makes it easier for animal control officers to impound animals in emergency situations.
If, upon investigation, an animal services officer believes exigent circumstances exist and the owner of the animal cannot be found, they may now enter private premises to impound the animal without a warrant. The rule does not apply to animals in an occupied building.
Among other instances, such situations arise in cases of animals attacking one another or a person, Henry said.
Henry noted that council members Christopher Boedeker and Derek Weathers along with shelter staff members reviewed ordinances in December and that the proposed changes have been reviewed by attorneys and shelter staff.
Council also approved changes to dangerous animal ordinances by shortening the deadline for compliance from 30 to 10 days and by making rules and provisions for owning dangerous animals more strict.
The annual registration fee to own a dangerous animal increased from $50 to $100 per year.
“The $50 is a state-mandated fee,” Henry said. “The increase is to help cover our costs. They get a collar that says dangerous animal as well as yard signs and tags. Many cities don’t allow dangerous animals.”
Courts, not the city, determine the designation of dangerous animal, Boedeker and Henry added.
“Dangerous animal involves cases where a dog has already bit someone or acted in a manner where a person might believe they are dangerous,” Boedeker said. “It’s not a breed-specific determination. And they have been deemed dangerous by a court of law, not the animal shelter or city.”
The new rules as approved increase some, though not all, fees associated with the shelter but give the shelter manager discretion to lower or waive such fees in certain instances.
The ordinances permit property owners who find animals at large on their property or public property to take control of the animal and deliver it to the animal shelter or to report that they have taken control of the animal to animal services within 72 hours. The resident is required to report visible tags, tattoos, brands, microchips or other identifying information on the animal.
It is illegal for the resident to release, give away, sell, trade or barter the animal to anyone who is not the owner.
Residents must also report instances of animals struck by a vehicle.
The rules prohibit hunting and trapping of animals without authorization from animal services with the exception of legal hunting with a license where authorized.
It also prohibits those who have had animals seized and that ruling upheld by courts from getting new pets.
The rules also prohibit sales of dogs and cats for commercial purposes in certain areas without authorization.
Mayor Scott Cain commended Henry and the review committee for working through existing ordinances to come up with suggested changes.
“We know a new shelter is needed,” Cain said. “It’s on the radar but it just comes down to funding.”
Council members approved a budget amendment by moving $17,976 from fund balance reserves into the Cleburne 4B Economic Development Corporation’s budget.
The additional funds will go toward pay increases for Splash Station personnel, especially life guards.
Pools in the Metroplex and Burleson pay more, in some cases substantially so, Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Dobson said. Because of that, Splash Station has lost lifeguards and had trouble retaining those who remain.
The hope is to encourage Splash Station employees to remain through the entire season and to save Cleburne money from constantly having to hire and retrain new employees for those positions.