Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Pet owners, residents must both obey laws

Americans love their pets. Our typical image of a family is often incomplete without a dog playing fetch or a cat snuggling on the couch. But owning a pet is not all fun. Owners must make a major investment in both time and money to properly care for their animals.

Recently, a controversy between pet owners and private property owners gained public attention. Victoria residents Marvin and Faye Brunner grew tired of neighborhood cats wandering onto their property and causing problems by leaving feces in their vegetable garden, urinating on their patio furniture and vomiting. The Brunners began trapping the cats using a nonlethal trap baited with cat food. First, they took the cats to the pound but started receiving hate mail. Then, they began dropping the pets off in the country, but after a friend told them some of the cats might be declawed, they stopped.

This is a complicated situation and raises questions on both sides of this issue. Cats are fiercely independent creatures. Unlike dogs, which can be restrained with a strong fence or leash, outdoor cats are left to wander freely and are capable of climbing trees and other obstacles. This makes it difficult for pet owners to control and contain their cats or prevent them from entering another person's property.

However, this does not lessen the rights of property owners to enjoy their homes without worrying about damage caused by another person's pet. According to the city of Victoria's code of ordinances Article 4, Sec. 4-40 (c), "It shall be unlawful for an owner of an animal to fail to exercise control over such animal to prevent it from damaging private or public property." Under Sec. 4-48, "The owner of every animal shall make sanitary disposal of any excreta deposited by his animal on public walks, streets, recreation areas, or upon private property not within the control, possession or supervision of the owner." Clearly, the Brunners had the right to remove the animals from their property, and we encourage pet owners to keep these ordinances in mind. Residents undertake a certain amount of responsibility when they take in a pet and must be willing to take whatever steps are necessary to protect and maintain their pets.

At the same time, we recognize not all of the cats trapped by the Brunners may have been pets. Victoria has a large stray and feral cat population, which is most likely contributing to this problem. Cats can reproduce at 5 months old and can have up to three litters of kittens a year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. We encourage residents to do what they can to help solve this citywide problem by contacting Victoria Trap Neuter Return to learn the best way to help get these cats spayed and neutered.

Above all, we encourage residents to be good neighbors. Homeowners are often passionate about their property and their pets. We ask that everyone remember to be respectful toward each other when dealing with issues such as these. In a best-case scenario, neighbors can work together to find a peaceful solution before resorting to hate mail or trapping pets.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.