When City Hall doesn’t respond, there’s always Facebook

Posted Thursday, Jul. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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kennedy A citizen revolution that began on Facebook has led to a government shakeup.

This isn’t Egypt. Or Austin.

This is about stray dogs, and an uprising that brought action at Fort Worth City Hall.

Diligent neighbors armed only with Facebook have compiled an incident spreadsheet of 14 cat killings by roaming dog packs in the last month, and demanded action against strays running loose in the Fairmount and Ryan Place neighborhoods.

City officials have reassigned an animal control officer to patrol in early-morning hours, and have mustered the entire City Hall comunications empire to help residents address their cat, dog and coyote problems.

In the latest news blast, the city’s autodialer emergency phone alert system was activated to warn residents to watch for stray dogs. City officials had already sent code officers door to door to check some pets and paperwork.

All after complaints on Facebook.

“I always thought Facebook was stupid, but it’s become a really good alert system for the neighborhood,” said Kris Savage, 63 and self-admittedly “not a Facebook-generation person.”

She is among the 904 commenters on the Ryan Place or Fairmount neighborhood pages, usually a discussion of crime tips or the latest Magnolia Avenue restaurant buzz but lately a long list of dog-pack sightings and cat owners’ concerns.

The neighborhoods have feral cats, but most of those killed were pets attacked on porches or yards, according to Savage’s chart.

(Under Fort Worth’s libertarian-minded pet laws, cats are allowed outside but must stay on the owner’s property, although obviously that still puts them at risk.)

Even City Council member Joel Burns lost a favorite neighborhood cat, he said.

City Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett sent residents a long letter on Tuesday, pleading for patience and explaining that only two or three animal control officers cover the entire city at any particular time, mostly between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

“Facebook is always a tale of two cities,” he said Thursday.

“It brings a neighborhood together to share concerns and information. But it’s also where people communicate fears and opinions, and sometimes the facts get blurred.”

Some of the original posts turned into city-bashing complaints about government “bankers’ hours.” Other reports turned out to be untrue or hearsay.

Some cats have been killed, “either by coyotes or a group of dogs,” Bennett said, guessing that coyotes or dogs that usually feed around the TCU campus may have come to the neighborhood to forage.

He’s telling residents to keep cats secured and report anyone who lets a dog run free. The incidents have occurred mostly between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., he said, indicating that the roaming dogs may have owners who keep them inside during the day.

Savage said she and neighbors have met new friends and made plans with neighbors they met recently on Facebook

“It’s made a city neighborhood seem more like a small town,” she said.

And closer to City Hall.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy Get alerts at RebelMouse.com/budkennedy

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