Letter to the Editor

City Council Exhibits Lack of Willingness to Deal with Problems Related to the City’s Animal Ordinance

On February 4, 2019, I presented before the Bemidji City Council regarding a desire to have the City’s Animal Ordinance Revised (See Chapter 6 of the City’s Code – Click Here ). I gave a short presentation and was then questioned for about 30 minutes, mostly about Trap/Neuter/Return programs. You can view the meeting through the city’s website (click here). I come in to give my presentation at about minute 5. In response to the meeting, the Board of Directors and I drafted a letter to the editor which will hopefully be in the paper soon. Below is the text of that letter…

Dear Editor:

Over the past few years, a group of concerned citizens worked to revise the City of Bemidji Animal Ordinance. This group noted several problems with the ordinance, and had a desire to improve our community regarding animal care and control. The committee worked with City staff and Council members to create a revised ordinance that was beneficial to the community, humane and enforceable. On February 4, 2019, Brandon Mustful, a member of the committee and Executive Director of Great River Rescue, presented the revisions to the City Council. We were dismayed that the Council was not receptive to the committee’s proposals, nor were they willing to devote any time or efforts to fixing the problems with the ordinance.

The City of Bemidji’s Animal Ordinance has three major shortcomings:

  • It does not reflect current practice. For example, it states that all unclaimed animals will be destroyed after five days.
  • It lacks any mechanism for managing populations of feral cats. Trap/Neuter/Return programs have proven to be effective and grant funding is available to make it financially feasible.
  • It contains no provisions for standards of care or accountability regarding euthanasia of pets. 

We wish to partner with the City to better serve our community and the animals within it. We desire to make the job of City officials easier, not harder. It is not our goal to make money from this issue; we are committed to animal welfare and to the overall welfare of this community.

If the City of Bemidji does not act, the problems associated with pet overpopulation are unlikely to improve. Large populations of feral cats will continue to roam and multiply . Many of these cats will also live short, difficult lives. Additionally, residents will still live with the threat of their beloved pet being euthanized simply because they were out-of-town and not able to reclaim the pet within five days. And, when those animals do visit the pound, residents will have no assurance that their pet will be well cared for.

It is our belief that the City of Bemidji can do better. We can do better. Please write or call your City Council representative and let them know that the issue of an inadequate ordinance cannot be ignored.


Great River Rescue Board of Directors
Geri Hickerson
Jeanne Edevold Larson
Eric Sundem
Angie Fournier
Sue Feeney

At this point, we just want the community to be aware of what is happening. The city seems reluctant to address the issues we have put before them if they don’t hear from you. We have been working to build a stronger relationship with our city for a long time. We do not desire to be critical of them or bring them any negative attention. We really appreciate the work they have done to save animals and get them back to their homes.

Please take some time to review the current ordinance yourself. Please look into and learn more Trap/Neuter/Return programs for managing feral cat populations. A great place to get informed is Alley Cat Allies. Click here to visit their website. If you have questions and want to learn more about our proposals, please feel free to call me at 218-751-7910 or email me at director@greatriverrescue.com. And, finally, as stated in our letter to the editor, please contact your City Council Member. Here is a link to the City Council directory – Click Here. Let them know that this is an important issue that needs to be addressed. Remind them Great River Rescue is a valued community organization that is ready and willing to help.

Thank you for your time and for considering this issue. I know that not everyone will agree with our ideas. The issues of animal ordinances, and animal control are complex and affect everyone. We are open to feedback and other ideas. No matter what though, we want to move things forward. We want to be part of a community that is constantly evaluating and doing what it can to be stronger and better serve its citizens.

Respectfully Submitted:

Brandon Mustful
Executive Director
Great River Rescue

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