Rodent ordinance off table

COVINGTON - Residents of the city of Covington won't be able to obtain permits to shoot squirrels and other rodents, the City Council decided Monday night.

"I've had so much negative response to this that I don't think we need it," Councilman Mike Whatley said of the draft ordinance drawn up by City Attorney Ed Crudup at the council's request.

Whatley had previously been in favor of the ordinance, which would have permitted residents to obtain a one-year permit, at a charge of $15, to shoot rodents creating a nuisance on their properties.

But Whatley said he's had numerous phone calls from constituents who say they don't want such an ordinance.

Mayor Kim Carter and Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams also said they have concerns for residents' safety, given that the city has many densely populated neighborhoods.

"We're trying to look out for the safety of all the citizens of Covington. If they have a problem, they can call their pest control company," Carter said.

But Councilman Keith Dalton said government shouldn't get involved in the issue.

"If I've got a problem on my property, I've got the good common sense to take care of it," he said, adding that he's seen local historic homes damaged by squirrels.

The motion to approve the first reading of the ordinance was denied 4 to 1, with Dalton in favor and Councilman John Howard abstaining.

The city ordinance stating that it is illegal for anyone to discharge a firearm within city limits except in defense of person or property or for recreational purposes in an indoor firing range will remain in effect. Law officers are exempt from the ordinance.

The Covington Police Department has been issuing permits to shoot squirrels for decades, but there was no ordinance on the books allowing it, City Manager Steve Horton previously said.

Recent complaints from residents over squirrel shootings prompted Horton and Police Chief Stacey Cotton to temporarily suspend the issuing of permits until the council could decide if it wanted to create an ordinance.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.