Pet limit, adoption rates and name changes on the table in Beaumont

How many pets makes too many? And how do you reduce the number of unwanted pets?

The Beaumont City Council is considering making some relatively major changes to the city’s animal care ordinance, and some minor ones, as well. During a work session following the city council meeting Jan. 10, the council addressed some of those changes, including name changes and increases in pet limits and adoption fees.

Mayor Becky Ames has championed an effort to change the ordinance to improve conditions for the animal community of Beaumont. She and a state-mandated committee, the Animal Care Advisory Committee, met prior to the council meeting to discuss the proposed changes.

“I think the committee has put forth some really good suggestions to us,” Ames said. “I have been talking to the city manager about changing a few things with Animal Services … to do a better job in that area. Not that we’re doing a bad job, but we can always do better.”

The first change discussed during the work session was related to changing the name of the division and some other terminology within the ordinance. Rather than “Animal Control Division,” the department would be known as the “Animal Care Division.” 

In September 2015, the Beaumont Police Department announced it was reorganizing its Animal Services program into two separate divisions, Animal Control and the Adoption Center at 1884 Pine St.

Animal control supervisors would be called “animal care managers,” and the terms “humanely kill” and “destroy” would be replaced with “euthanize.”

Another proposed change to the ordinance would increase the limit on the number of animals a resident can have, raising the number from four to eight.

Council members Mike Getz, Claude Guidroz and Audwin Samuel all questioned the increase in the pet limit, indicating they felt it was too high.

“There are a lot of people who foster animals until they are adopted so you have to take that into consideration for that number,” Ames argued, pointing out that many of the foster animals would only be at a residence temporarily and that foster families assist in caring for shelter animals.

Samuel said he feels eight is still too many.

“I do have a problem with the eight dogs or cats,” Samuel remarked. “I mean, I understand we’re trying to make it easier for us to get them off the streets, but I don’t think it really matters to a neighbor who’s having problems with cats coming into their yard pooping ... whether they are being fostered or (not).”

Another proposed change to the ordinance would require pet owners to have their pets enclosed when traveling down the road. That means truck owners could not ride with a dog loose in the back of the pickup. The dog, or other pet, would have to be inside a ventilated container so it could not jump or fall out.

If the changes are made, pet owners would have to affix their outdoor pets’ water bowls so they could not be knocked over by the animal. They would also have to attach a swivel to leashes or runners where pets are tied up so the animals are less likely to get tangled.

The Animal Care Advisory Committee recommended changing the adoption fees from $30 to $90 for cats and $120 for dogs, but the new fees would include spaying or neutering.

“It sounds like a lot but … you can’t stop the cycle because what happens is people will come adopt an animal and they commit to get it spayed or neutered, but you know how things go,” said Ames. “It doesn’t happen.”

She pointed out that other entities, such as the Humane Society and the city of Waco, where she visited to study their city’s animal care system, already require animals be spayed or neutered prior to adoption. She also said the city veterinarian is offering the service at a reduced rate, and added that she hopes a nonprofit entity might form to offer the spaying and neutering at even lower rates, as has been the case in some other municipalities.

“I am, like a lot of people here, an animal lover,” Ames remarked. “We have to start somewhere, and this ordinance is where we’re starting.”

Following the meeting, animal advocate Debbie Rogers said of the changes in the ordinance, “It’s a step in the right direction.”

Rogers said mandatory spaying and neutering of pets is something that needs to be addressed in the future if there is any hope of controlling the pet population. She pointed to statistics from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

“Just one female dog and her puppies can result in 67,000 dogs in six years, and one female cat and her kittens can lead to 370,000 cats being born in seven years,” asserted Rogers. “If people would get their pets spayed or neutered, we wouldn’t have to support as many animals in shelters.”

Beaumont Police Department Chief Jimmy Singletary agreed with Rogers that the ordinance is a fine first effort.

“Spaying and neutering pets is the main thing people need to do,” said Singletary. “It is a step in the right direction, but we have a whole lot more work to do.”