Letter to the Editor

Councilperson explains position on animal ordinance

Sunday, July 15, 2012

To the Editor:

As most of you know, the city council attempted to suspend the rules and pass Ordinance No. 10-2012, regarding changes to the animal control policy of the city.

If I had not opposed the suspension of the rules, this ordinance would already be law, and you would have not have the opportunity to express your opinions on the revised ordinance.

I would like to express to the citizens of Brazil the positive part of this revision and the parts that I find troubling.

The penalties for violators of some parts were increased significantly. This is good. If you violate a rule, you will have a stricter punishment and will be less likely to be a habitual offender. The sections affected by these increases were 93.04, 93.13, 93.16, 93.17, 93.02, 93.03, and 93.14, which includes but is not limited to, unlawfully impounding an animal, keeping wild animals, not registering an animal (regardless of an upfront fee), improper care of an animal, having an animal apprehended by an officer, and cruelty to an animal.

The penalties for these offenses will be raised from $25 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense to $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $500 for all subsequent offenses thereafter.

The Kennel/Cattery permit section, 93.18, restricts the number of pets residents may own. You must apply for a Kennel/Cattery permit if you own more than one unaltered dog or one unaltered cat over the age of six months, and at no time (unless you have a kennel/cattery permit) shall the number of dogs exceed four, number of cats exceed six, or total number of combined dogs and cats exceed six. This section had very little changes from the previous ordinance and the penalty for not complying remains at $250 for the first offense and $500 for each subsequent offense. If the number of unaltered animals is causing the biggest problem, too many strays, then shouldn't we increase the fine for this section?

The biggest issue I have with the revision of the ordinance is charging a yearly registration fee of $5 for altered animals and $50 for unaltered animals. This only includes dogs and cats. The ordinance does allow for residents to keep birds, rabbits and potbellied pigs, with various restrictions on those animals, but there is no "fee" associated with these pets. The word "fee" is used to disguise the fact that this is a tax. If you own a dog or cat, you will be taxed. I don't understand the logic. We (the city) should not be punishing you for doing the right thing. If we simply took out the sentence that requires this "fee," pet owners would still have to register their dogs and cats. If you didn't register, then you would be fined. That makes sense to me. Those who follow the rules are rewarded; those who don't are punished.

I would agree with the rest of the council that we need an animal control officer. Hiring one to enforce the ordinance is the only way we are going to solve the "animal control" issue our city faces. The reason our current/old ordinance hasn't provided enough control is because we didn't have anyone to properly enforce it. We rely on our police force to take care of animal control and that shouldn't be the case. Our hardworking police officers have more serious issues to deal with. If we go ahead and hire an animal control officer, I believe that our income from enforcing penalties would be significantly higher than from collecting "registration fees."

As of now, we don't have an animal control officer to enforce the new ordinance. So, until we hire one, the new ordinance would lack enforcement.

I completely disagreed, and still do, with the "registration fee" part of this ordinance when I went to the meeting. However, I made an effort to compromise and meet in the middle. This was ignored. I offered several variations of a compromise, all of which were ignored. It is troubling to me that the council still attempted to pass this with a suspension of the rules and ignore public input. I ask you to make you voice heard. Contact city hall and your councilperson to let them know what you think. You may obtain a complete copy of the proposed ordinance at city hall.

Dustin Jorgensen, Brazil City Council, Ward 4,