Monday night was Nancy Rau's first City Council meeting. She made the most of it. Rau, along with more than 20 other supporters, worked to make their case against part of the bill the Jefferson City Council voted on regarding the health and welfare of cats and dogs that would make it illegal to feed animals on public property.
When all of the votes were taken, that was the only aspect of the bill rejected.
During an impassioned public comment period before the vote, Rau was one of five residents who spoke in opposition to the section. In her presentation, Rau outed herself as one of three individuals feeding a colony of feral cats in Washington Park. Along with feeding the animals, she and the rest of her group known as "The Wild Things" also perform a free trap/neuter/release program for animals abandoned in the area. Rau said they also try to get many of the animals adopted. Her plea to the council was that she simply be allowed to help the animals. "I don't want to be treated like a criminal," Rau told the council. Rau's presentation was greeted with a round of applause despite Mayor John Landwehr's rule barring shows of approval or disapproval in the council chamber.
When it came time for the council to debate the bill, 5th Ward Councilman Ron Medin moved to have the bill broken into its three distinct aspects.
Medin made the point during the debate that the information presented for either side of the argument is not very strong.
"There have been a lot of questions raised by this proposal and I don't think that we have a lot of answers," Medin said. "I do not believe that an ordinance as narrowly focused as this addresses the overall concerns that we have with the feral cat colonies.
"Most of the information that I have been forwarded in the last few days have been Internet articles that, frankly, if they were turned in on a high school term paper, the teacher would tell them to go back and get a better site."
He said for that reason, he could not support the bill.
For 4th Ward Councilwoman Carrie Carroll, the issue came down to population control, which she did not think would be accomplished.
However, opposition to the public feeding aspect was not unanimous; 2nd Ward Councilman Jim Penfold said he had an issue with not allowing the city to maintain its property.
"We have 40,000 residents who use our property for a variety of reasons, and I don't see it in their interests, nor our interests as the property managers, to allow the maintenance of feral cat colonies on our property," Penfold said.
2nd Ward Councilman Rich Koon, sponsor of the bill, said he was concerned about the liability that the city might have if someone were injured by one of the animals while on public property. City Attorney Nathan Nickolaus agreed that a case for the city's liability could be made.
After the debate on the issue, the council voted 7-3 against enacting the feeding aspect of the bill. The three councilmen that voted for the section were Koon, Penfold and 3rd Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner.
Votes on the two other aspects of the bill were not as close.
The council voted 9-1 in favor of limiting the number of cats and dogs allowed at a residence to six, and that those who want to have up to 20 cats and dogs can apply for a license. 3rd Ward Councilman Bryan Pope was the only councilman to vote against the bill.
The other issue, making it illegal to leave animals locked in a car on hot days and allowing official to retrieve animals found in such a condition, passed by a vote of 9-1 after being amended to change the temperature outside the care from 90 degrees to 80 degrees. Scrivner said he voted against the section because the 90 degree figure that was originally used was the same standard used for children and not arbitrary, like the 80 degree figure.