Councilman set to propose Animal Welfare Commission

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published September 8, 2021

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MADISON HEIGHTS — A new proposal in the works calls for the formation of a citizen-led board in Madison Heights that would examine issues relating to domestic and wild animals.

Tentatively called the Animal Welfare Commission, the proposal is being crafted by Mark Bliss, the same member of the Madison Heights City Council who, shortly after first being elected in 2013, called for the formation of the city’s Information Technology Advisory Board, or ITAC, and who later proposed the Madison Heights Arts Board.

The city now has more than 20 boards and commissions. The council makes appointments to them twice a year, in February and August. Most of the openings were filled last month.

“We do still have vacancies for the Elected Officials Compensation Commission and the Library Advisory Board,” said Madison Heights City Manager Melissa Marsh.  

Bliss first suggested the creation of an Animal Welfare Commission at the June 28 meeting.

“After review with staff, my colleagues, and residents at the last meeting (in August), I formally asked council to add the creation of the board to our next meeting agenda,” Bliss said in an email.     

At press time, he was writing the founding resolution. Bliss said it will be similar to Warren’s own commission, and the structure will be a blend of ITAC’s approach of advising council on strategy, and the Arts Board’s approach of organizing projects within the community.

“We’ll be looking for residents with a background in working with animals, like veterinarians and wildlife conservationists, who would be able to lend their expertise to the city, and help our council craft the best policies for all of the animals in our city — wild and domestic animals,” he said.

“As a reference, in my eight years on council, we’ve had many votes that impacted animals, like the domestic pet limit vote, our hen ordinance, and our leash laws — and that’s not even taking into account all of the ordinances we should be discussing but aren’t,” Bliss said.  

“ITAC helped to modernize City Hall, the Arts Board brought arts and culture into the community, and this Animal Welfare Commission will follow in their footsteps, making the city a better place for all of our furry friends.”

He said he anticipates the commission helping craft policy and procedure for issues like strays, feral animals, dangerous animals, animal hoarding, neglect and cruelty, invasive species, pet health, adoption awareness and more.

“Even if this board could help us improve just one of those areas in our city, it will be a huge success,” Bliss said. “Study after study shows the positive impact of animals in our lives, both domesticated and wild. The more proactive we can be, and the more thoroughly we can discuss these issues, the better our city will be. With limitations in staffing and attorney resources, it’s easy to let these issues fall a bit by the wayside, no matter how important they truly are. But having experienced volunteers advise our council will no doubt lead to more informed votes on these issues.”

Madison Heights Mayor Roslyn Grafstein anticipates the board will be well-received.

“Many of our residents are looking for volunteer opportunities to help with animal welfare, so this committee will be a good opportunity for them to be involved,” Grafstein said in an email.

Robert Corbett, another member of the council, said he appreciates the idea as an animal lover himself.

“I’m a dog owner — proud dog-parent of a 9-year-old terrier. Dogs have been in my household most of my life, from childhood through the present,” Corbett said in an email. “I don’t know if Madison Heights is unique in this regard, but I would absolutely describe the city as pro-animal in general, almost rabidly so at times — pun intended.”

He noted how the city maintains an animal shelter, and also periodically holds and sponsors fundraisers to support animals. The city is also home to rescues such as the Animal Welfare Society of Southeastern Michigan.

“I think in an advisory and supporting role, such a commission could be very beneficial,” Corbett said. “Council needs to retain a regulatory role over animal services in the community, as a health and safety matter. But the continued involvement of caring and committed residents can only be a positive thing.”