The ANIMAL CONTROL ADVISORY BOARD met TUESDAY, December 09, 2014, at 2:00 P.M. at the Animal Care & Control Center.

Carla Anthony              Pat Biegler
Drale Short      John Barwick    Drale Short    
Tom Bryan  Tom Bryan    Becky Carter
Jo McDaniel          Bobbi Yeo
Dr. McDermott
Pat Biegler


Shelly Kotter    - (Best Friends Grant Representative)
Jeannie Elliott  - (Cat Owner)
Sara Welsh  - (Shelter Supervisor)
Gerald Stewart  - (Animal Control Supervisor)    

Drale Short thanked everyone for coming to the meeting.  She requested members introduce themselves because there are new members present to the Animal Control Advisory Board, John Barwick and the Save A Pet Committee, Bobbi Yoe.  Drale Short informed the members of two vacant positions on the Animal Control Advisory Board.  Those positions are currently in search of being filled.  She told the Board Gail Simpson would be one of the new members after her swearing in.

Drale Short introduced Shelly Kotter, Best Friends representative, to the members and explained that she would let the Board know how the Best Friends Community Cat Program is doing.  Shelly Kotter informed the members that the previous employee vacated the current position as the Community Cat Cooridnator.  She explained that the employee left them in good standings and record keeping was excellent.  She stated the program had great numbers and in order for the grant to continue certain numbers have to be met.  Shelly stated the euthanization rate has to go down at least 25% to meet standards for the first year. Animal Control and Care Center are already at 47% which has surpassed the benchmark and is doing exceedingly well. Shelley Kotter referred the board members to the numbers in their packets, which shows how the animals in the program are affected.  Shelly informed the board members of a new protocol training this new employee would go through, and she will do more on-site monitoring of the program.  She also stated, volunteers will be needed to help with paperwork along with releasing cats back into the colonies.  Their program database for tracking cats throughout the program is vital. The numbers must show after 3 years 90% of the colonies have been affected by being fixed.  Shelly Kotter thanked the members for their time and looked forward to sharing more successful numbers with them in the future. John Barwick asked if any grants were available for dogs.  Shelly stated yes, they would go through the Best Friends Network Partners.  

Drale Short referred the board members to their packets with the November 2014 statics.  She also asked them to look over the power point presentation that is included in their packets.  A new “Pen Pal” program we would like to launch at the Animal Care and Control Center.  Ms. Short advised the members she would have more information at a later date.  

Drale Short explained to the board members why this meeting was called. Animal Care and Control has received numerous complaints about Jeannie Elliott’s cats.  A formal complainant stated a large number cats coming from Ms. Elliott’s property on to theirs and creating a nuisance. The Animal Control Supervisor investigated and acknowledged forty plus cats in her residence and other officers have counted up to twenty-two on the outside.  According to the city ordinance this makes Ms. Elliott in violation.  Dr. McDermott asked the specifics of cats allowable at a residence.  Drale Short replied, the limit is five for domestic animals at a single dwelling.  Drale explained that Ms. Elliott’s cats that were trapped have been housed here at the center since June 2014 and have not been returned because of the limit. She has not been given any citations, because Ms. Elliott promised to work with us in bringing her location into compliance.  After this conversation, Ms. Elliott cut off communication with Ms. Short and no resolution on relocation was established. The impounded cats remained at the Animal Care and Control Center.  Drale Short stated complaints from surrounding neighbors were still coming into her office and she requested Adult Protection Services be made aware of the living condition of Ms. Elliott with the forty cats she stated were on the inside of the residence.  Adult Protection Service attempted to visit Ms. Elliott but she would not allow them inside her home.  Ms Short stated legally we cannot give her back the cats and Ms. Elliot still has made no attempts to communicate about relocation.  

Becky Carter, Save A Pet Member and founder of Animal SOS, spoke to the board member concerning her dealings with Ms. Elliott.  She recalled their conversations for spay and neutering assistance for cats and told her she owned 12 cats.  She vetted her cats at Northside Veterinarian Clinic.  Becky Carter also stated the businesses on University Avenue where Jeannie Elliott resides, had a number of complaints about seeing deceased cats in the roadway when they come to work.  Drale Short concurred that her office has also received deceased cat calls in and around the address of Ms. Elliott as well. She went on to state that citizens call her office about the amount of cats in the area being a nuisance and all complaints that come through her office have to be investigated.  

Bobbi Yoe asked about the relocation effort by Ms. Elliot’s.  Drale Short stated the conversation about relocation of the cats never came up again by Ms. Elliott, but when she mentioned relocation she spoke of a brother that owned property/land in Cataula, Georgia.  She stated she could move a building onto this land and allow her cats to live there.  

Gerald Stewart, Animal Control Supervisor informed the Board, his Animal Control Officers have had a lot of deceased cats in that area.  He has personally counted more than twenty cats on the inside of her window while investigating a complaint and counted 20 plus on the outside.  Officer Stewart stated, he made several visits to Ms. Elliott’s residence to speak with her and she would never come to the door.  

Sara Welsh, Animal Control Shelter Supervisor, stated she has known Ms. Elliott a number of years. The cats housed at the center now are not fixed. Sara Welsh stated one of Ms. Elliott’s cats was adopted to her friend that lives up the street from Ms. Elliott.  Sara informed the Board that Ms. Elliott’s visits the cats’ maybe twice a month. They are secluded in an area that is not populated with other animals and the cats are not friendly.

Jeannie Elliott was invited in to speak with the Board. Ms. Elliott introduced herself and passed out pictures of the cats that are housed at the Animal Care and Control Center.  She stated one of her neighbors complained about the cats walking across his parking lot and that was the only complaint made from her neighbors.  She stated Animal Control did come out and set traps on her neighbor’s property and caught the cats that are now housed at the center. Ms. Elliott passed out a letter of petition, signed by twenty of her neighbors attesting that in “no way the feral cats were a nuisance to the neighborhood”.  Ms. Elliott explained she has used Becky Carter as a contact through the Free Roaming Cat Program to have a number of the cats fixed in the colony.  Ms. Elliott stated, she ended up with a lot of ferals in the colony by way of one feral female.  This female started the colony and she has had problems trapping that one to have her spayed.  She tried desperately to catch the female but failed numerous times.  This cat she believes has had two litters a year to add to the colony.  Ms. Elliot has tried other tactics to catch the feral and even studied animal behaviors to combat the problem.  

Ms. Elliott passed out a letter of character from Northside Animal Hospital, signed by the Dr. Hall stating since February 2014 with the help of the Free Roaming Cat Program, she has been responsible in spaying and neutering cats in her area. She vaccinates, feeds, and medicates them at her own expense.  Ms. Elliott acknowledged she has been a ‘cat lady’ for nine and half years and estimates her spending on the upwards of $7,000 on the ferals in her area.  She stated there are now fewer than 18 out in the neighborhood.  Jeannie Elliott requested to the board, she just wants her ferals returned to her.

Drale Short asked Ms. Elliott how many ferals are in the area now; she replied there are twenty-nine.  Jeannie Elliott stated she only owns five and they reside inside the house and sleep in bed with her. Pat Biegler asked, what would she like the Board to consider?  She replied, she wants them back home and re-introduce them to the other ferals.  Ms. Short told Ms. Elliot the Board Members would discuss their decision and inform her when a decision is made.

John Barwick opened the discussion and stated he feels Animal Control should give the cats back to Ms. Elliott.  Tom Bryan concurred with Mr. Barwick.  Pat Biegler stated Ms. Elliott confirmed twenty-nine cats were in that colony and she doesn’t want to give any up. She treats these casts as if they are her own and not ferals. She believes the cats should be placed somewhere else because of the quantity and won’t be put to sleep by Animal Control. Drale Short stated, they should not be given back because of the quantity and complaints received in her office.  She’s very concerned the number of cats will multiply when the warm weather starts.  Dr. McDermott stated, he is concerned about the number of cats and believes nothing should be given back.  His suggestion is to reduce the population.  John Barwick would like a plan of action on working with Ms. Elliott in order to get theses cats back to her.  Jo McDaniel stated, she is in violation of the law and does not feel the Board can supersede the law by returning them to Ms. Elliott.  

Drale Short stated the law states she is in violation by having the quantity of cats on her property and the next step would be to issues her tickets.  Ms Elliott tried to obtain a hobby kennel permit back in June 2014 but it was denied because of the zoning restrictions.

Pat Beigler suggested an agreement be written through the city attorney’s office on how to possibly legally return the cats back to Ms. Elliott.  John Barwick stated the colony should be reduced to six for that high traffic area.  Pat Biegler asked for a vote of suggestion from each member on how to proceed.  Tom Bryan affirmed a written agreement be put in place, Dr. McDermott concurred.  Jo McDaniel stated to follow the law.  Carla Anthony stated a time limit with an agreement intact.  John Barwick stated to give the cats back with an agreement.  Bobbi Yeo stated a written agreement.  

Drale Short stated she would confer with the City Attorney about the legality of placing the cats back with Ms. Elliott and work on drafting a written agreement.  

Jeannie Elliott was called back into the conference room.  Pat Biegler asked Ms. Elliott how many cats were spay or neutered.  She stated, seven girls and three boys are not fixed.  Pat Biegler told her once they speak with the city attorney’s office on the legal issues discussed they would inform her on the decision made concerning the impounded cats.  Ms. Elliott was excused.    

Pat Biegler adjourned the meeting due to time and with the agreement that Drale would confer with the City Attorney to obtain legal direction for this board and an understanding of what can and can’t be done.

Listed below are the email dialogues between Drale Short and the City Attorney’s Office. City Attorney’s answers and findings are denoted in red.
On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, the Animal Control Advisory Board had a meeting in which a resident by the name of Jeannie Elliott requested to petition the board for the return of her cats.  In December of 2013 we received a concern about a house with an excessive amount of cats.  We investigated and received no communication from the owner of the home.  We consistently left door hangers and attempted to make contact with the resident.  While we were doing this we received several calls from Mr. Earl Barbaree the owner of the property (State Farm Office) next door to Ms. Elliott.  Mr. Barbaree complained about the cats and how they are always on his property making his customers uneasy, getting onto their cars and using his flower beds as litter boxes, etc.  

With this information in June we set traps to trap as many cats as we could on the State Farm property and were able to trap four cats.  After the fourth cat was trapped, we noticed that traps were being closed and the food removed.  We feel it was Ms. Elliott who was taking this action to prevent anymore of her cats from being trapped.  Ms. Elliott finally came into the Animal Care and Control Center claiming ownership of the four cats.  At this time she was brought to my office in which Sara Welsh and I met with her regarding the four cats and the complaints we were receiving regarding all of the cats on her property.

Ms. Elliott admitted to me during this meeting she had 32 cats outside and some 40 plus cats on the inside of her home and they were not causing any problems  She stated they were her family and that she wanted the four cats we had in our custody returned to her. I informed her they would not be returned to her due to the number of cats she's admitted to having and due to the number of cats we observed on her property.  She then stated she was with Animal SOS, the foundation that handled our administrative portion of the Pet Smart Charities Grant.  Animal SOS tried to work with her, but she was difficult and didn't want to follow the program so they cut ties with her.  The purpose of her stating she was with Animal SOS was to attempt to align herself and to state she is a registered Cat Colony in the program and she isn't.

We have had these cats since June of this year and haven't relocated them or anything because she promised she would work with us to come into compliance.  She was wanting to research on special fencing, she was going to make contact with her brother who supposedly owns property in Cataula, GA and place a house there for her cats, but she basically stopped communicating with us and began petitioning various offices the City Managers Office, various Councilors etc.

As stated earlier we held the Animal Control Advisory Board, in which she petitioned them to return her cats to her.  There was much discussion from the board and several questions were asked that we need legal direction regarding:

1.  It was asked if citations had been issued to Ms. Elliot and the response was no because we were trying to work with her to bring her into compliance.

2.  Are we within the confines of the law to return her cats to her?

Only if she has five or fewer cats or has registered her cat colony with Animal Control in accordance Columbus Code 5-20 or she has had the cats placed with her by the City's designated rescue. If she is an independently approved registered colony, then you all have to inspect and approve it, and the cats have to be kept on her real property since they don't have permission to be kept on the adjacent property.

3.  Does the Animal Care and Control Board have the authority to waive any action we have taken and direct us to return the cats to Ms.Elliott?

No the Animal Care Advisory Board does not have the ability to interfere in specific enforcement actions concerning specific violations of the ordinance or direct the release of a specific animal from the facility. They may consider policies and procedures generally applicable to Animal Control operations (Columbus Code 5-3(b) and hear complaints about staff members and procedures. The only circumstance in which they hear particular cases pertaining to a specific animal are when an owner asks for a hearing with respect to a dangerous cat or dog classification (Columbus Code 5-11(f)) The slightly contradictory area is Columbus Code 5-17 which allows the Board or a three member panel to hear specific complaints about staff members or procedures and if the complaint is sustained, take remedial action. I would think this provision is better interpreted as only applying to reviewing procedures that are implemented in numerous cases or an employee who has created a recurring problem. To interpret it to allow the Board to rule on whether certain ordinance violations should or should not be enforced seems totally at odds with the procedures for citation and appeal to Environmental Court.    

4. If we are directed to return the cats to her are we within the law to cite her for the nuisance, and all other violations that were found in upon trapping these cats, i.e. no rabies, no city permit, disabling an animal control trap.

I do believe you are still within your rights to issue citations where the ordinances are clearly violated and allow the matter to be resolved in Court if necessary. To the extent the Animal Control Board is giving you directives in conflict with ordinances or directing their non-enforcement, I believe they are exceeding their legal authority.

Please note I received a call/message from Mr. Barbaree, original complainant, yesterday who stated Ms. Elliott went to his tenant and informed them she went before the Animal Control Advisory Board and they were going to return her cats to her.  Of course, with this information Mr. Barbaree called me very unhappy and concerned and not wanting this to happen.   I advised him of what happened during the meeting and promised him I would keep him informed.

Just need some direction, Thanks

Drale Short
Special Enforcement
Division Manager

This message may contain confidential and/or proprietary information and intended for the person or entity to who it was addressed.  Any use by others is strictly prohibited.  If you receive this in error, please reply immediately and delete the material from all computers.

Drale Short adjourned the meeting at 4:36 PM.

December 9, 2014  
Kathy McCarley, Chairman
Contreana Pearson, Recording Secretary
C: Clerk of Council
ACAB Members