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City’s animal control ordinance to be revised

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Pictured are representatives of local rescues, the Humane Society and the College Garden Animal Hospital, who shared input on a new draft of ordinances regarding animals during a Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday. (Alison Penn Photo)

Consolidating and revising the city of Roswell’s animal control ordinance has been an ongoing process for the Public Safety Committee.

The committee met on Tuesday afternoon with city councilors Jeanine Corn Best, Angela Moore, Steve Henderson and Barry Foster present for discussion.

No formal action was taken on the animal ordinance, nor were any action items discussed by the committee, which met from 4:30 p.m. until a little before 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Along with city staff from Roswell Animal Services and other departments, representatives from Peace of Mind Rescue, Friends of Roswell Animals and the Roswell Humane Society offered their input on the 19 pages of the current drafted animal ordinance.

Parker Patterson, deputy city attorney, said Chapter 4 of the Roswell City Code covers animals and ownership. Patterson described the current chapter as “quite long” with 77 sections — as well as having “gaps in coverage” and redundancies.

Mike Mathews, deputy city manager, said the revisions are a “needed project” and the discussions are happening to ensure the city is “heading down the right direction” regarding animal law.

With the new document, Patterson consolidated the information into five articles — covering generalities, livestock, dogs and cats, impoundment and rabies control — with 39 sections. He said the intention is to have laws be understandable for animal owners and enforceable by the city.

A new section with general care and maintenance requirements “for health and well-being” of animals has been included, Patterson said. The section on cruelty was also revised to follow the misdemeanor in state law and clarify that exterminating vermin is not considered to be cruelty.

Some of the changes, RAS staff said, were made in mind to penalize inadequate pet owners and protect animals. Megen Telles, RAS kennel manager; and Joseph Pacheco, Animal Services supervisor, explained RAS’ needs pertaining to the revised ordinances when questioned by councilors. On several topics, Best asked staff if the new codes had enough “teeth” needed by RAS.

A section prohibiting sexual abuse of animals was also added to city code, though Patterson said there are no state laws on the matter.

Animal safety in flatbed trucks was debated by the committee and those present. The general idea of the committee was to decrease animal deaths and injuries caused by animals not being on short leashes or kennels in the back of flatbed trucks.

Spaying and neutering of dogs and cats was another highly discussed topic. The councilors had questions regarding breeders of hybrid dogs, as well as the process for hunters or ranchers who would want their dogs to remain unaltered.

A provision was added, Patterson said, for neighborhood outdoor cats who are properly vaccinated, fixed — and registered and tagged — to roam. Also regarding cats, he said with the new ordinance, animal control could initiate a spay-neuter and release program for cats if they desire to do so.

For limits of animals in the city limits, five animals — a combination of dogs and cats — are permitted at this time with other provisions for fowl, rabbits, Vietnamese pigs and others. Telles approved of the existing maximum of 10 animals — with a multi-animal permit — or the discussed new maximum, 8 animals.

Pacheco said he had asked for the decrease in the number of animals, due to experiences seeing multiple animals in poor conditions. Ultimately, RAS staff was open to keeping the limit at 10 with multiple animal permitting, but increasing the amount of square footage per animal where it would be housed.

Municipal court orders regarding animals held at RAS for an extended period were a concern, from a financial standpoint, for Best and for Anna Edwards, a rescue volunteer, who was concerned about euthanasia for other animals when cages were occupied by dogs being held for pending court cases.

Larry Connolly, a citizen, suggested a possibility of having an animal-dedicated court. Some committee members asked the deputy city manager and the city to look into such an option.

Mathews informed the committee that fines and fees associated with the animal ordinance will be reviewed in a similar fashion at the next meeting, planned for Aug. 13.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.