CCHS Representatives Meet With Jamestown Mayoral Candidates
Sunday, November 3, 2019
Jamestown mayoral candidates Andrew Liuzzo (Libertarian), Eddie Sundquist (Democratic, Independence, Working Families), and David Wilfong (Republican, Conservative) were invited to the Chautauqua County Humane Society’s (CCHS) Strunk Road Adoption Center this week for a conversation with Executive Director Kellie Roberts, Board Vice President Mary Schiller, Esq., Director of Animal Services Sue Bobek, and Board Secretary Stephanie Malinowski-Church regarding the future of animal welfare and related laws in the city. The following is taken from the discussions with the three candidates.
The purpose of these conversations is, “To create a culture in Jamestown and throughout the county and beyond where people know how to get involved in the political process to make a real difference in the lives of animals,” said Kellie Roberts. “Using social media to air concerns is not effective in creating change. If you know where the candidates stand on the issues that are important to you -- such as the welfare of animals -- then you can vote accordingly so that progress is made. We also want animals to be on the radar of city officials and we are opening that door by meeting with the candidates for the mayor of Jamestown.”
Libertarian candidate Andrew Liuzzo came to CCHS with an open ear and the intention to learn about animal-related issues within the city. The first topic was the area’s pet population and what is being done to keep all pets healthy and spayed or neutered. Liuzzo listened to information about CCHS’s 2018 Healthy Pet Clinics which served 131 Jamestown dogs and cats, a total which will be surpassed in 2019. He learned that of the 3,100 animals altered through the spay-neuter services at CCHS in 2018, 817 of those cats and dogs were from the city of Jamestown and that CCHS always has a waiting list for spay-neuter surgery appointments. He questioned why the number of these surgeries is held to about 3,000 and learned that there is a lack of low cost options in the area and a limited number of slots available at CCHS’ clinic due to the size and usage of the surgical space and other resource issues which puts a cap on the number of possible surgeries. Liuzzo offered the suggestion of adding a vet to the staff and was informed that in and of itself having a vet on staff would not solve the problem and that this is not currently permitted under New York State Law. He also questioned the possibility of bringing in interns to perform surgeries and was met with the reasoning that there would still need to be a vet on staff to oversee an intern. Ultimately he suggested bringing up the issue with state assembly members to change the law to allow CCHS to add a veterinarian to the staff as a step toward solving the need for spay and neuter services. Liuzzo said, “What we are up against are laws that are being written down state. What we need to do is get the community involved to work on a culture change to make that happen.”
The issue of community cats in Jamestown was another point of discussion. Liuzzo was asked if he were elected mayor would he be willing to direct some city resources to help tackle the problem. Liuzzo said, “We will need a new city council and mayor who is willing to listen and create a new mindset.” He commented that any action taken by the city would be somewhat restricted because CCHS is outside of the city limits and was informed that CCHS would be happy to work with the city to remove whatever barriers exist.
Liuzzo was very open to the possibility of partnering with CCHS to ensure a healthier and safer city for our animals. On the topic of microchipping Liuzzo said, “Working with animal control might be a good place to start. If they pick up a dog that does not have a chip, there could be a regulation that they need to get a chip to insure their safety and well being.”
In closing, Liuzzo said, “I was not including animals before, but now I am. I did not know this was an issue before and now I know.”
Democratic, Independence, and Working Families Party candidate Eddie Sundquist was appreciative that CCHS reached out to discuss animal-related issues prior to election night. The topic that garnered the most conversation was that of community cats in the city. Sundquist said there have been, “Numerous calls about feral cats and animals in the city and that the city had changed their policies regarding them and it does not seem to be fixing the problem.” Along a similar line the question arose regarding animal control in the city of Jamestown and the passing of the “No Pet Gets Left Behind Bill” (https://bit.ly/2pkOiHb) which is intended to protect pets from being abandoned when an eviction occurs. Sundquist responded to these problems by saying, “The key is to partner with local organizations and talk about the best ways to solve the issues.” Regarding community cat overpopulation, he says this problem is on his radar and it is something that is important to him personally. Regarding No Pet Gets Left Behind, Sundquist said, “I have heard that some people have been told to just release the animals, but have not had that verified.”
The city website came up as a point of conversation, primarily for its lack of animal-related information. Sundquist was asked for ideas to improve on this, including when it comes to the issue of dog licensing and he said, “I’m not sure everyone who should be licensing animals is licensing their animals and having a campaign on that and why we do it would be a good campaign for local shelters.” He noted that this type of campaign is already being done in Olean. Sundquist was also open to the idea of adding this information to the city website.
Ultimately Sundquist said that he wants to move the city forward and grow it and that he would be all for teaming up with CCHS on the possibility of doing joint events to promote microchipping, licensing, and pet adoption. He wants to help create an open, transparent, and even welcoming city government.
Republican and Conservative Candidate David Wilfong came to CCHS to talk about Jamestown breaking through old schools of thought and moving forward. The conversation started with Wilfong speaking about his awareness of animal issues within the city. Wilfong illustrated his familiarity with CCHS, saying that he has adopted there and noting that his children have walked dogs at the Adoption Center.
Regarding animals in the community, Wilfong said, “I know there is an issue with feral cats, where I live there is a terrible cat problem.” When it was explained that the spay and neuter program at CCHS is maxed out on space and resources and that additional alternatives are being sought, Wilfong said, “I believe the city needs to do something, possibly a stipend to help cover the cost of spay and neuter.”
Other topics addressed during the conversation were the No Pet Gets Left Behind Law and how NYS Ag and Market Law states that municipalities are responsible to help any animals who are under distress. Feedback to CCHS from citizens point toward these laws not being followed in the city. Wilfong said that he has not seen anything saying that the city should not be doing as the laws specify but he also does not know the Jamestown Police Department’s workload. Addressing this as part of a greater issue within the city, Wilfong said, “There is a transient group moving from apartment to apartment that are not taking care of their kids or pets well and this is something that we need to deal with.”
Wilfong also addressed the people in the community that truly love their animals and commended CCHS on the Healthy Pet Clinics that have been held at St. Luke’s Church in Jamestown for the past two years as a way to keep those pets in loving homes.
Wrapping up, Wilfong said things need to change to increase the health and welfare of animals in Jamestown and that will happen through better communication and a strong city government that is loyal to wanting the best for all of the City of Jamestown.
CCHS wants to thank the candidates for coming to our Adoption Center during this busy time of the campaign to talk about some of the animal issues in the city of Jamestown.