By KENNY WALTER
LONG BRANCH — The City Council is expected to expand and strengthen Long Branch’s animal control operations.
Sydney Johnson, the director of the Department of Health, proposed several initiatives during the Sept. 27 Workshop meeting, including licensing cats and giving the city more control.
“We don’t want to stand still and say, ‘Hey, we have good programs,'” Johnson said. “If we can, we want to tweak it and make it better.”
One of Johnson’s suggestions is to change the language in the city’s ordinance that prohibits the feeding of wild animals on city property. Johnson said he would like to add feral animals to the ordinance so that it would include cats.
“This would give us a little more teeth and another tool to where we can address those situations,” he said.
Currently, those charged with animal cruelty crimes are identified by the city, but are referred to the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of the Cruelty to Animals for charges. Johnson said the city could undertake more of the criminal aspect of it and also begin an educational program to help those charged.
“If we can intervene and educate people, we may charge them with animal cruelty, but we can always downgrade it later to a misdemeanor,” he said.
Johnson’s final proposal would be to license cats, as the city only currently licenses for dogs.
“The state has left the licensing of cats to the discretion of the municipalities,” he said. “The most common kind of complaints we see are a situation where a person has a colony of cats in their single-family home.
“These cats are free-roaming, they reach the neighbor’s property. Licensing does provide a ticket home — we have a license [and] then we know who the people are.”
Johnson said the main strength in issuing licensing for cats is the city could set a maximum number of cats that residents are allowed to own.
City attorney James Aaron said he will work with the department on drafting an ordinance.
“We understand the problem. I’ll have to work with them on ordinances,” he said.