Even before Attalla's City Council meeting started Monday, the discussion did — with residents in one Camp Sibert neighborhood worried about incidents of what they called animal cruelty that occurred in recent weeks there, and about exotic animals in the middle of residences.
Concerns reached a fever pitch recently after recordings on Facebook circulated, showing an emu in one video and a potbellied pig in another being attacked by large dogs on the property of an exotic animal owner living on John Avenue.
The owner told city leaders he does not operate his business in the neighborhood, that it's based in Pinson. He said he had just housed his animals in Attalla.
Attalla Mayor Larry Means said city ordinances don't allow that either. The number of dogs captured on the video is in itself a violation; owners can't have more than four.
After a dog attacks another animal, it is considered vicious, the mayor said, and there is proof on video now that all these dogs have attacked.
Neighbors and animal lovers from outside the neighborhood wanted to see the owner charged with animal cruelty, while the owner apparently indicated the animals got into the same enclosure accidentally. He said he was not home when the pig was killed by five or six dogs, and that he was "p-----" about it because it was his daughter's pig.
Neighbors believe he should be charged anyway, because he failed to keep the animals safely caged.
Means said the city has to follow certain procedures, but he indicated those animals will be removed. Seeing the video, he said, "made me sick."
Aside from the horrible thing that happened to the emu and the pig, Means said the safety issue is of great concern. If another animal got into the dog's enclosure, the dogs could have gotten out and could have endangered children in the neighborhood.
The mayor and council had heard about the animals in the residential neighborhood for some time, and Means said there had been communication with the owner since June. The mayor said he had been given a date of Aug. 5 to remove animals not allowed under the city regulations.
"I've been working on it," the owner said, and some of the animals had been removed. He said he couldn't just sell them, because he had the business to consider.
The recordings of the animal attacks show the owner's dogs, Saint Bernards and Great Danes, attacked the other animals. Based on the Facebook page for the owner's LLC, which offers animal shows for birthday parties or educational settings, and for photo shoots, he has or has had large snakes, pigs, goats, guinea pigs, lizards and possibly other animals.
Means said he became aware of the video Friday, and that the city would reach some resolution on the issue Monday.
The owner, not named because he has not been charged with any offense and could not immediately be reached for comment after the meeting, met with Attalla Police Chief Dennis Walker and spoke to the council.
Means said he agreed to meet Monday afternoon with the police and animal control officers to see what animals remain on the property. If the issue was not resolved Monday afternoon, city leaders said the owner could be cited daily for his violations as long as the animals remain.
"We're going to take care of it," Walker said.
The animal owner indicated he thinks it's a personal issue for some of the neighbors, the mayor said. Means said he couldn't help what people post on social media, but that its not a personal issue for city officials — it's a matter of following city ordinances.
Those ordinances don't allow for exotic animals, vicious animals or unlicensed animal businesses in the city limits.
"I can't believe someone thought they could do this in the City of Attalla," Means said.
Contact Gadsden Times reporter Donna Thornton at 256-393-3284 or email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: What animals belong in Atttalla? Exotic pets, cruelty discussed