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Bemidji City Council: Public ponders pet rules

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

You'd almost think Bob Barker had attended the Bemidji City Council meeting Monday night, considering the frequent request to please get your pets spayed or neutered.

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Eleven individuals addressed the council during a public hearing on a proposed ordinance that would both limit the number of dogs and cats residents may own and also prohibit the running of at-large cats and dogs within city limits.

"The way to really address this problem, we all know, is through spay and neutering," said resident Camille Hurtado.

Hurtado said she had previously owned just one dog and one cat, but found a stray cat one night that had wandered into her garage. Unable to turn the cat away, Hurtado said, she began caring for the animal. Another cat that came into the garage was pregnant and had kittens.

"There are Good Samaritans trying to do the right thing," she said, noting that the animals all were spayed and neutered.

Hurtado's statements echoed those of the first speaker, Linda Lemmer, who joked that she and her sister are owned by 10 cats. They have accepted the animals, spayed and neutered them and cared for them.

"I would prefer to keep feeding them and keep them alive," she said.

The proposed ordinance would allow residents to own up to three dogs or three cats or a total of four dogs and cats.

Not all of those who spoke were against the ordinance. In particular, two Nymore men voiced their support.

Steve McGuirk said he lives near a woman who has, at the least, 21 cats, or, at the most, 33 cats. He noted that they have killed at least 13 songbirds, five chipmunks and seven squirrels.

"They kill because that's what cats do," he said. "I think it's sad to see the wildlife go downhill."

"There's got to be a point at sometime where someone says, 'This is wrong,'" agreed Michael Dean, who said he often finds the neighborhood cats in his home eating his food and in his garbage cans. "There's got to be something someone can do about this."

Kit Belcher, the executive director, of the Beltrami Humane Society, said the Humane Society already has people who drop their animals off in the yard outside of the building.

"I'm really concerned we're going to have a number of animals dropped off on our doorstop," she said.

Belcher urged pet owners to be responsible and to spay or neuter their animals. The Humane Society, she noted, will have dates in July and August for pet owners who wish to spay or neuter their animals.

The public hearing was held in conjunction with the second reading of the ordinance. The first reading of the ordinance was held April 5.

However, the council voted 7-0 to continue the second reading to its May 3 meeting. In the meantime, city staff was directed to look into the option of requiring cats to be licensed, like dogs are, within the city limits. That decision was made following a motion by Councilor Greg Negard.

Dogs now are licensed in the city limits at a cost of $20 for those not spayed or neutered or $10 for those that are, according to City Clerk Kay Murphy.

In other business

The council also took action on the following requests:

- The council voted unanimously to approve requests to utilize the Lake Bemidji waterfront for the 66th annual Bemidji Jaycees' Water Carnival and fifth annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival. However, the Jaycees had asked that the city waive a $2,000 fee that would go toward funding police overtime for the event. That request failed on a 2-5 vote as those voting in favor were Councilors Jerry Downs and Ron Johnson. Opposed were Mayor Richard Lehmann, Negard and Councilors Roger Hellquist, Barb Meuers and Kevin Waldhausen.

- The council approved a bid of $169,378.17 from SignArt Company Inc. out of Mendota Heights, Minn., for all indoor and outdoor signage for the Bemidji Regional Event Center. The bid was the lowest of 13 received.

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