Town rejects animal control proposal

Jan. 11, 2013 @ 07:39 PM

The Indian Trail Town Council chose not to approve a drafted animal control ordinance at its Tuesday meeting.

The 20-plus page proposed ordinance called for registration of all pets, livestock by permit only, outlawed certain exotic animals in the town limits and imposed hefty fines for violations.

Councilwoman Darlene Luther championed a leash law, but said the ordinance puts more restrictions on animal ownership in the town than is acceptable. Originally, Luther said she wanted a way to keep people safe

“In my heart, I want a leash law, but this ordinance really kind of has snowballed into a lot of government regulation which I’m not comfortable with on a lot of levels,” Luther said.

She thanked members of the public safety committee for their work developing the ordinance, but agreed with several speakers who said the laws would go too far.

Jerry Morse has state permits to raise rare pheasants on his property and sell chicks to other game fowl farmers. He knows there are other areas of Indian Trail where dogs run loose through densely populated neighborhoods, threatening family pets and posing a risk to children, he said.

While his aviary would likely be grandfathered, Morse said such strict rules about what kind of animal is allowed in town is unfair.

“This is more important than me or my flock of birds,” Morse said. “This is about my neighbors and their rights to freedom and the pursuit of happiness.”

Instead of heavy regulations, he suggested the town beef up enforcement of its current animal ordinances.

“Some dog owners aren’t responsible,” Morse said. “We need to address that. To me, that’s the issue to enforce the laws that are already on the books.”

Other council members agreed with Luther.

“I’m glad to hear you say that,” Councilman Chris King said. “I’m not the least bit interested in legislating this ordinance.”

Councilman David Cohn said he had conflicting feelings about the ordinance. On one hand, some Indian Trail residents fear the groups of aggressive dogs roaming neighborhoods. Complaining to dog owners who do not restrain their animals rarely makes a difference.

On the other hand, Cohn pointed out that parts of the town is very rural. Pet owners living on acres and acres of farmland should be allowed to let their dogs run freely.

“You’ve got neighborhoods and you’ve got country,” Cohn said. “One ordinance isn’t going to fit both.”

Town Attorney Keith Merritt said the council can adopt a basic leash law, but first the council needs to be specific about what is included in the ordinance.

“You tell me what you want in a leash law,” Merrit said.

Town Manager Joe Fivas added that a leash law has to be enforceable.

“If you see an animal out running around, and it’s not wearing any tags, if you don’t know where that animal belongs, where do you take it?” he said.

Luther said she was not against animal registration as a means to find out where the pet belongs.

“I don’t understand why this is so difficult,” Councilman Robert Allen said after Merritt continued to press Luther for specifics. “The leash law would prevent dogs from running everywhere. So, we have a leash law that we want to have enforced and put in whatever vehicles that needs to be to keep it revenue neutral.”

If enforcement means establishing a dog registration system to fund an enforcement officer, so be it, Allen said. But the law should address dogs and only dogs.

“It’s not about how many dogs you have, how many cats you have, how many goats your have,” he said. “No. It’s a leash law and that was what was given initially to the public safety committee.”

Frances Knight, member of the public safety committee, said the committee began work on the ordinance in September with little instruction on what the council expected. If council members were so concerned about time wasted drafting an ordinance that the the council would not want to pass, they should have attended public safety committee meetings, Knight said.

The town council ended discussions with the intent to hold a special meeting about a leash law at a later date.