Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — Burbank City Hall at East Olive Avenue and North Third Street.
Last Tuesday night’s Burbank City Council meeting was like a marathon, it went on and on, but for a good reason. The city council had a busy agenda filled with issues and concerns on December 8 and that packed the chamber at city hall. The controversy over declawing domestic cats brought out the largest crowd and got the city council bombarded with over 100 e-mails.
During a public hearing on a proposed city ban on the practice, speaker after speaker argued against declawing calling it cruel, even “inhumane,” and claimed it is primarily being done for the convenience of pet owners. They suggested such simple alternatives as clipping a cat’s nails and providing a scratching post for the feline in order to protect furniture.
A small group of opponents of the ban spoke out as well. Some of them cited pet owners with health issues like “compromised immune systems” as a good reason for declawing. Still others defended declawing as medically safe, if done properly, and a choice that should be left up to the pet owner and a veterinarian.
Burbank Police Captain Janice Lowers, who supervises the Burbank Animal Shelter, came out in support of the ban. Captain Lowers said the shelter has seen a number of declawed cats with health and behavior problems. After some debate, the city council voted 4-to-1 in favor of banning the declawing of cats only. The lone “no vote” came from Mayor Gary Bric.
Two female Cal State Northridge students sitting next to me were taking diligent notes. One of the journalism students was baffled by Bric’s vote against the ban and asked me about it. Earlier, Bric had stated he couldn’t vote for the ban if it included all animals. Well, Council Member Anja Reinke changed her motion to only cover cats and Bric still voted “no.” I thought that was odd and I couldn’t explain it to the confused student. The way I see it, if you’re going to have a declawing ban it should cover all animals, not just cats. The emergency ordinance takes effect immediately, beating a December 31 deadline for enacting declawing bans. Burbank is now the eighth city in the state to outlaw declawing of cats.
Public comments and the rest of the agenda items followed, so the city council meeting did not wrap until well after midnight. While the rest of us headed for home, the council members went into closed session to deal with more city business.
In retrospect, this was a good council meeting because the council members stayed focused on the issues, this time around, and did not get into petty squabbles. This is something the Burbank Police Commission should try to emulate. At the December 2 meeting, the police commission proceedings were hampered by constant bickering on the panel. There is a huge divide growing between the renegade commissioner, James Etter, and the rest of the panel. How can the police commissioners step up and help solve some of the serious problems in the Burbank Police Department when they can’t seem to stop fighting among themselves? I was very disappointed. I had high hopes for this police commission.