Pet owners and advocates in Rockwood said they are upset over a new city ordinance that limits the number of animals they can have to five, and allows animal control to trap feral cats and stray cats, and euthanize them after three days.
"I just can't stand to see something starving," said Tina Pemberton, who said she has 11 cats, seven of them feral. "I've spent thousands of dollars that I don't have, I'm a piano teacher."
Pemberton said she spayed, neutered, and vaccinated all but two of the cats, since she's had trouble trapping them. She said she is so upset over the ordinance, and the thought of choosing which pets to keep, she's moving out of the city.
"I'm going to meet with a realtor up in the mountain," said Pemberton. "It's sad, it's frustrating, and I don't want to deal with it."
City officials said complaints about feral cats and stray animals roaming the streets, and wandering into neighboring yards prompted the ordinance.
"What we're primarily interested in is those animals that are left running in the wild, that just really don't have a place to go to," said Mayor James Watts.
Watts owns two cats, and grew up with animals.
"Our goal is not going out and trying to roundup all the cats in Rockwood," said Watts. "I hope people don't think the city of Rockwood is an animal hater. We're not. We're trying to put the responsibility back on the citizens."
Advocates at 'Planned Pethood', who have attended the city council meetings in opposition to the ordinance, said trapping and euthanizing is not the humane approach.
"The best way to handle them is to trap, neuter, and release back where they came from," said Meg Jared, with 'Planned Pethood' in Harriman. "Because if you trap and euthanize, more are just going to come in. If you neuter them, and you turn them back out, eventually the population will dwindle away."
Watts said the ordinance also focuses on abandoned properties, which are often prone to becoming a shelter for stray animals. Now, the city can clean up the property at the expense of the owner, not taxpayer dollars.
As for the five-animal allowance, residents who wish to own more pets would need to obtain a kennel license and be located in a commercial zone.
"Who's going to go through that, and how available are commercial properties?" asked Pemberton. "It's just nonsense."
Pemberton also rescued several dogs, including one that was pregnant and abandoned with a wound from a BB gun.
Watts reassured people who take care of their animals properly would not be targeted.
"We're not going to have a problem with those kind of folks," said Watts. "And there are exceptions, like if a cat has a litter of kittens, to the five animal rule."