After not reaching a consensus on some key changes proposed to Chapter 4 of the Roswell City Code, which pertains to animals, members of the city’s Public Safety Committee decided early this week to spend more time revising it.
A number of suggested amendments weren't sitting well with some committee members. Among those changes would be amending the animal code to better encourage owners to have their pets vaccinated and microchipped.
Committee Chair Juliana Halvorson said the idea is to find ways to make following the rules more attractive than violating the city code.
"I want the city to make it cheaper to get your dog vaccinated, to get your dog microchipped than to pay a fine," Halvorson said.
Failure to have a dog microchipped would increase from the current fine of $25 to $300. And a fine of $300 for failure to register a microchip has been proposed within this code revision.
Committee members Jeanine Corn-Best and Barry Foster made note that some of the proposed changes might not have the intended effect and would instead create an added burden to pet owners with lower incomes.
The cost of microchipping can be prohibitive sometimes. Committee members and others participating in the meeting — such as city staff members, residents and animal advocates — cited a variety of prices for microchipping.
Also suggested in this document are higher fines for public nuisance violations. Such fines now cost between $100 and $300, but could increase from $200 to $500. The specific amount would be based on whether a given offense is the first, second or third.
Committee members also expressed concern about whether raising the number of pets allowed without the breeder’s permit would prompt some to take in more pets than they can ultimately afford or provide them with adequate living space. A pet owner would be able to have eight pets compared with the current code’s limit of five.
“It seems counterintuitive,” Foster commented.
Another goal of modifying the ordinance is to keep fewer people from leaving their pets at the animal shelter. The facility is overcrowded already, Halvorson pointed out.
There was agreement among the committee members that educating residents about the importance of vaccinating and microchipping their pets is necessary.
After Halvorson mentioned the need for the city to conduct outreach and educate the public about the changes, Corn-Best agreed and suggested there be an education period of at least six months so pet owners could find ways to ensure they can comply.
More significant punishment meted out to those who commit acts of animal cruelty is also considered important. The fine for cruelty would be $500 instead of the current $100, up to 90 days in jail and prohibition from owning animals for at least five years.
Other new language included in the draft covers other fee and fine modifications — mostly increases — and the addition of definitions of dangerous dogs.
A dangerous dog is described as having engaged, when unprovoked, “in behavior that requires an action by a person to prevent bodily injury a person or another animal which is off the property of the animal in question” or “…injures a person in a manner which does not result in muscle tears or disfiguring lacerations, or require corrective or cosmetic surgery.”
A third dangerous animal classification applies to other pets, specifically those with a poisonous sting or bite that would “constitute a significant hazard to the public.”
The proposed ordinance was scheduled for a possible vote Tuesday by committee members on whether to recommend that this first group of code changes is forwarded for consideration by other officials.
Regular meetings of this committee are usually held monthly, on the Tuesday following the regular meetings of the city council. Councilors meet on the second Thursday of the month to conduct regular business.
Committee members could reach a consensus as soon as April after staff makes some additional modifications to the draft code ordinance.
There are going to be five different areas of the code to be revised. The changes are on a timeline to be completed by year’s end. All of the changes will go to the Roswell City Council for approval after a public hearing.
Vehicle maintenance contract:
Committee members recommended a contract for the Roswell Fire Department to maintain and repair vehicles with First Vehicle Group, for $225,000. Money to pay for this contract will come from the Fire Protection Grant Fund. It will be reviewed by the Finance Committee, then sent to the city council for approval.
Reporter Terri Harber can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 308, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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