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December 3rd, 2008
Proposed rewrite puts teeth in San Marcos’ animal ordinances

by BRAD ROLLINS
Managing Editor

A proposed rewrite of the city’s ordinances on the treatment of pets and other animals has some council members bracing for a backlash from constituents they think will find the rules unduly intrusive.

Drafted by the Animal Shelter Advisory Board comprised of San Marcos, Kyle and Hays County appointees, the proposed changes include provisions that establish what is commonly called a catch, neuter and return program for feral cats and requires residents whose animals are impounded to attend a pet owner responsibility course before getting their animals back. The ordinance also revives a ban on transporting dogs in the bed of pickup trucks without tethers, a proposal that outraged some residents when the city council considered, and eventually rejected, a similar law in 2006.

The council unanimously approved the ordinance on the first of three readings but only after members took turns for nearly an hour airing reservations. Several members, including Mayor Susan Narvaiz, said they could not support the proposal further without weighing concerns about the ordinance’s reach and whether it leaves too much discretion in the hands of animal control officers.

Said Narvaiz, “We’ve learned that when we hear the words ‘officers’ discretion’ the result is an inequitable application of the regulation.”

San Marcos’ animal services director Bert Stratemann noted that several sections questioned by council members are present in the existing code. Putting more teeth in ordinances gives officers leverage to stop the inhumane treatment of pets, he said: “Just like a police officer has many tools in his bag of tricks to deal with the education, we have many tools that we use.”

“We see too many animals every day who don’t have any shelter, who are out there chained to a tree with no food and no water,” Stratemann said.

Although they seemed to vary in their degrees of enthusiasm for addressing animal issues, the council nearly to the person questioned various aspects of the proposed rules. A few council members, including, John Thomaides and Chris Jones, said they agree with the general intent of the ordinance.

“The spirit of what is going on here is that we’re taking a different approach to how we treat our animals and holding our community members accountable for how they treat their animals. …If you have a child that is abused and a child being neglected, they don’t allow the child to stay there, they go and take that child,” Jones said.

Some of his colleagues, however, alluded to wide-ranging differences on what constitutes adequate pet care.

“I’m a country boy and alot of the things you’re talking about outlawing are just the way we did things,” said council member Gaylord Bose. In addition, he wondered whether requiring residents to take a weekend pet owner course before retrieving their pets from the shelter would force them to pay boarding fees unnecessarily.

Changes included in the code, as outlined in a city staff memo on the proposal, include:

  • Changes rabies vaccination requirement to fit state law;
  • Sets up a microchip program that would allow one time city registration rather than yearly registration;
  • Revamps dangerous dog sections to comply with changes to state law;
  • Add new and some broader definitions aligning with state law;
  • Clarifies the duties of the Animal Services Manager and Animal Services to comply with present practice and contractual agreements made with Hays County and Kyle;
  • Redefines some of the animal nuisance sections to enable better enforcement
  • Repeals Article 5 of Chapter 18, Commercial Animal Establishments, and moves those requirements to an article in the Animal Control Ordinance where all commercial activities will be placed together in one area
  • Outlaws selling and giving away animals on public property, private parking lots and flea markets;
  • Restricts, but does not outlaw, tethering of animals, so that the city ordinance follows state law;
  • and sets out rules for managed feral cat colonies based on Trap, Vaccinate, Alter, Return and Manage (TVARM) that gives Animal Services better control over such programs, particularly with regard to potential nuisance problems.


DOWNLOADS

» Letter from shelter board chair Jeff Jorgensen [pdf]

» Shelter board minutes from Aug. 6 meeting [pdf]

» Proposed revised ordinance changing Chapter 6 of city codes [pdf]

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4 thoughts on “Proposed rewrite puts teeth in San Marcos’ animal ordinances

  1. How about for feral cast that we pass a law that requires shoot shovel, and shut up. We kill rats and other vermin, why do we want to protect a detrimental animal and allow is to roam the streets? Good grief, we have become a nation of sissies. I say give them a dose of lead poisoning…a 22 caliber bullet right between the eyes. Instant, painless, and humane. Next thing you know we will be setting up sanctuaries for feral cats to live with nice food and bedding. Unbelievable!

  2. I like the one time microchip registration as long as it is reasonably priced and isn’t used as another revenue generator for the city and its, dare I say, pet projects.

    While outlawing the sale of animals on public property and private parking lots sounds noble, the truth is that shopping mall and strip center pet stores are the largest purveyors of puppy-mill dogs. Further, hobby breeders and other amateur breeders lie at the root of the problem. Until we address these parties outlawing the sale of animals in a parking lots and flea markets will be as effective as me trying to get my waste water bill lowered this year.

    I too have a problem with ‘officer discretion’. As the Mayor points out, “We’ve learned that when we hear the words ‘officers’ discretion’ the result is an inequitable application of the regulation.”, police officers in San Marcos have failed in their duty to enforce the laws and ordinances in an equitable fashion. Until there are major personnel changes at the police dept. I think our pets would be safer with less discretion in the hands of law enforcement.

  3. Good lord, now Govco wants to tell me I can not let someone sell their puppies on my PRIVATE PROPERTY parking lot. What’s next?

  4. Pingback: In microchip debate, city points to family's reunion with Smokey the cat | San Marcos Mercury

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