San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

February 7th, 2009
CETI vs. City in final animal ordinance session

Members of Citizens for Ear Tatooing Identification (CETI) protest before Saturday’s final information session about a new animal control ordinance at San Marcos City Hall. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

Associate Editor

The emotionally charged matter of mandatory microchip registration for pet dogs and cats in San Marcos reached another boiling point Saturday afternoon at City Hall, where city staff gave its last of three information sessions about a new animal control ordinance.

Outside City Hall, a group calling itself “Citizens for Ear Tatooing Identification” (CETI) protested before the meeting.

Inside City Hall, CETI members and others pelted city staff with numerous complaints in the form of questions, touching on such worries as the new ordinance’s enforceability, over-reaching government, the risk of cancer from microchipping, religious objections, and the city’s dismissal of tatooing as an alternative.

City staff volleyed back with its conviction that microchipping is the most effective way to ensure that lost animals are returned to their owners and are thereby spared the risk of humane termination in the animal shelter.

On an afternoon that didn’t pass without the occasional dramatic twist, the city staff stole the show when San Marcos Animal Shelter Supervisor Kara Montiel ran a scan on the arm of Animal Control Supervisor C.J. Cooley. The scanner beeped and flashed an identification number as many of the three dozen citizens on hand gasped. Cooley then revealed that she had herself microchipped three years ago.

“I received a $100 check from Allstate for not having cancer,” Cooley said.

Some in the audience responded that three years isn’t enough time to grow a cancer.

“This is an injection,” Assistant Director of Community Services Mark Brinkley said of microchipping. “It’s not a surgical procedure. Our people are well trained to do that. The risk (of tumors) associated with implanting a microchip is less than one percent.”

After one citizen cited a 2007 Washington Post article pointing to cancer risks for  animals implanted with microchips, San Marcos Animal Services Manager Bert Stratemann questioned the veracity of that research. Furthermore, said Stratemann, only two of 10,000 animals microchipped worldwide have grown tumors, and neither of those has been conclusively linked to microchipping.

“The likelihood of death to a microchip is far less than the likelihood of death to euthanasia,” Stratemann said. Stratemann added that mandatory microchipping will reduce the unnecessary killing of animals by having “appropriate” and “reliable” tools in place for identification.

“We have had at least 20 animals in the last month returned to owners because of microchips,” Montiel said.

The city council passed the new animal control ordinance in December. The ordinance goes into effect on April 1.

As council debated the measure, regulations for tethering animals drew the most attention. Once the ordinance passed, however, the microchip registration requirement has inspired much labored debate in the city.

As one citizen put it Saturday afternoon, “I just want to have a choice on how to identify my dog.”

Stratemann said he has high-hopes for the microchipping program in San Marcos, taking his confidence from the results of a similar program in Albuquerque, NM.

“They’ve had euthanasia decrease, while drastically increasing returns,” he said.

Councilmembers John Thomaides and Chris Jones attended the meeting to take the city’s pulse on the matter. Jones said he had “no reaction” to the spectacle and was there just to listen to the “community’s concerns” and, as “one councilmember,” to identify the issues disturbing residents.

“It sounds to me like they want to have options,” Jones said. “But we need to realize that (mandatory microchipping) is just one part of the whole ordinance. This ordinance is geared to better the treatment of our animals.”

Among the more assertive citizens at Saturday’s gathering was Lisa Marie Coppoletta, a failed city council candidate in November who came back two weeks ago by announcing a new run for council and later helped organize CETI.  Coppoletta argued that responsible pet owners shouldn’t be penalized because of individuals “unwilling” or “unable” to keep their pets.

Coppoletta said most animals at the shelter aren’t lost, but “dumped” there. She pointed towards the national economic crisis as one of the many factors behind pet owners relinquishing their animals, suggesting the legislation is inappropriate because it doesn’t address that issue.

“We’re not trying to solve all the problems in the world with our microchipping program,” Assistant Director for Community Services Mark Brinkley said. “We’re finding solutions to local issues.”

CETI members argued that ear tatooing is preferable to microchipping, though they said traditional tag registration is their “best case scenario.” However, city staff is unconvinced about tags or tatoos.

Stratemann has said that tags are too easy to lose. Saturday, Stratemann and Brinkley argued that tatooing is a painful process requiring that animals go under anaesthesia. Furthermore, Stratemann said, tatoos can fade, they can be altered by injury and there’s no standard for tatoo identification.

Only one veterinary doctor practices pet tattoos in San Marcos, according to Stratemann, and even then, it consists of only a symbol specifying that the pet has been spayed or neutered. He said tattoos are “not a reliable” form of identification, and they are not offered in San Marcos as a form of identification.

Among the biggest challenges of the microchip mandate is enforcement. Stratemann said the only successful type of enforcement will come from lost pets. Otherwise, he added, “nobody will be knocking at your door making sure your pet is microchipped.”

Said Stratemann, “The enforceability of the law is as much as we make it. We’re not in the business of harassing the public. We’re trying to protect our animals.”

Religion took place in the conversation, as well. Coppoletta asked if religious thinking in opposition to microchips will tap consideration as the city enforces the mandate. Brinkley said the city’s legal department has not yet come to an opinion

The city’s animal shelter advisory board has scheduled a public hearing on the ordinance for Feb. 11 at noon in the Grant Harris Jr. Building.

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31 thoughts on “CETI vs. City in final animal ordinance session

  1. Do they understand that ear tattooing is far more time consuming, expensive, and downright painful for the animal? Quit being stupid and educate yourselves. The chip isn’t a tracking device. It stores information about the owner, so that when the collar falls off, they can still locate the owner. Chipping is the responsible thing to do, but if you really don’t want to do it, don’t. If you are that confident that your animal will never get out, the city will never know. They aren’t going to come around checking pets. Your vet isn’t going to be turning people in. If your animal does get out and you get fined, then you deserve it. If you don’t get your animal back, then you should feel bad for not doing everything you could. I am sick of this argument taking up time and space when there are far more important things going on.

  2. Perhaps tattooing is not the best option available, given that tags do exist, but it is less invasive than microchips and doesnt not provide a possibility (no matter how miniscule) of causing tumors. There are several alternatives out there, a mandate of microchipping is not the best solution by any means. Perhaps there are more important issues to address, however taking a stand on this one should not be disregarded or discouraged. That only sets a recipe of conformity, why not challenge something people are passionate about. Maybe to you, this is not an issue to pursue, but for some it is. why would you want to hinder their 1st amendement right, or freedom of democracy? that is an inane suggestion!

  3. The issue here isn’t about whether chipping or tattooing or dog tags or whatever is the “best option”. The issue is that such a system should NOT be mandatory. Stratemann said he would only support tattooing if it was a mandatory system, CETI is for VOLUNTARY tattooing.

    We’re not asking for a complete repeal of the ordinance, indeed many of the things inside are good. Just one word; ‘mandatory’ to ‘optional’, or even ‘recommended’.

    Kudos to Chris and John for showing up (although they snuck out early), but there are 5 other members of the City Council who need to know about how the community feels on this.

  4. That lady is an idiot for putting that micro-chip in her arm. That trick at the meeting was like OJ and the glove that didn’t fit. It took awhile, but eventually, OJ got caught.

  5. I never saw this issue as one versus the other and think the article title may be misleading. At least in my head, it was and outcry against making chipping mandatory. I for one, am FOR microchipping AND for tatooing. I am for pet safety in any way that a pet owner chooses – not in handing that choice of good stewardship over to any governing body.

    Often times, the good intention of any action gets lost and I fear that may be happening.

  6. Tattoos are ONLY a rhetorical device to call attention to the issue. Nothing more.

    The ordnance was slipped in under the wire surprising both staff and council members when it came up for adoption last year last year. Those of us that work for animal welfare in volunteer organizations were also completely unaware of it coming up for adoption, so we all sprung into action trusting city staff and board members construction of the ordinance.

    I was proactive regarding the passage by contacting directly council members and followed up. Created Face book events to encourage citizens would attend the council meeting supporting the ordnance. We offered support to city staff after those hearings on the educational components regarding video and multimedia.

    At the first meeting both city staff and those involved in helping with pet adoption and prevention of cruelty from various organizations were disappointed that the measure was not passed on the first reading.

    The ordinance language had to be cleaned up. Why? Because the issue of tethering and fencing and housing and complaining of noise were debated and Council wanted more clear language to respond to citizen complains on enforcement of the measure. The Mayor wisely wanted all the facts because “when citizens start to call me” and therefore the city council heatedly debated the ordnance offering personal narratives of their experiences with pets to test the various aspects of the ordinance.

    The point is that Council watered down the neglect aspect mandated in other cities and yet mandates something so radical without discussing it as micro chipping.
    Again, the council never debated micro chipping.

    We are all in favor of the ordinance except for this section and it is important to note that staff and legal do not have answers to our concerns. Why? Because, it was never discussed. This is why so many people are upset. And many of our community members are still unaware of the issue.

    I have no children of my own. My “kids” are my dogs. If my child was mandatorily micro chipped such as the city staff member who showed us her microchip, then you can be sure I would be up at a school board meeting. It is everyone’s right to make his or her own choice. In the state of Texas my pets are my property. And, it is also my right to treat my pet as a sentient being. And, for me microchip is something I am opposed to inserting a foreign object into my critter.

    Further, the animal shelter is killing so many pets because they are picking up the animals all throughout the county. There is no education or network set up to find your pet. The city could create lost and found templates and citizens could come in and make a poster, have a list of where to send an e-mail update to sent to veterinarians and other shelters. There could be an entire network of putting up posters around town. Or, education measures to update tags because they get scratched. Or, as one citizen said in another post– put a microchip in the collar. The pets are dumped that is why they end up at the shelter.

    The fact is that pets are euthanized at the shelter even when there are available bays because we are picking up animals from the county. This instance has been reported to me from a citizen who stood by and watched animals being put down when there were 5 open bays. I supported the ordnance because I thought since so much time was going to be spent on educating our community that the number of animals being put down would decrease and we could work towards a no kill shelter here in San Marcos. I did not support penalizing responsible stewards of critters because some people dump their dogs. And, this number will rise as the economy worsens and there is still no action plan in place.

    Those of us that worked to get the ordinance passed, feel that full disclosure was not presented both by city staff and discussion during the policy implementation by council. Council member Jones asked a direct question at a recent city council meeting and I followed up on that yesterday and there still is no answer.

  7. Has anyone seen findtoto dot com? It is an excellent start to finding different ways to find your pet if it is lost. (if this link is stripped, go to Google and type in find toto

  8. I am grateful for people who are passionate about their pets. We have a thing called San Marcos craigslist that has a lost and found. If I am not mistaken the paper prints lost and found ads for free as well. If they don’t then they should as a way to work with the people. as posted on craigslist there have been little dogs stole used for bait to train other dogs to fight. This to me is a far more severe issue going on in our county than micro chipping. It is like when the govenor wanted all teenage girls to get vaccinated for cervical cancer, eventually the public decided to take more messures to edcuate rather than dictate. We should have more ways to find lost pets. If you should microchip then great. If there is proof it doesn’t do any harm then the question is how much is it going to cost? I would rather the city offer free micro chipping once a month or once a quarter rather than debating over tattos vvs chipping. Again I stress to the city and anyone who knows of ILLEGAL dog fighting, in the county or anywhere to turn them in.

  9. Upon rereading the article, the title appears to be appropriate as it addresses the meeting, not the issue. My point was to the argument and not that particular debate/discussion.

  10. I think CETI is a group that voluntarily tasked itself with representing the thoughts of several, several San Marcos residents. It’s unfortunate they took a stand perhaps too late. But the ordinance does not take effect until 4/1/09 therefore lobbying council may provide for a positive outcome. Jones and Thomaides were present so they understand some of the concerns, its unfortunate the other policy implementers were not brave enough to follow suit.
    I honestly have no specific opinion on this issue, because its unenforceable, so my pets will not be getting microchipped. I am however in strong support of an effective democracy. Carry on the fight and hold the office holders (whom you elected in there) accountable.

  11. That there was no debate about what many people consider “the mark of the beast” should be curious enough. Besides that, why is the meeting on a Wednesday when everyone’s at work?

  12. My sister told me that while Thomaides and Jones were present at the meeting listening to citizen concerns, our awesome mayor was walking hand in hand with her husband downtown. City government arduously working towards resolving citizen issues.
    Im not by any means a Narvaiz basher, but this doesnt paint her in a positive light. I understand that Saturday isnt exactly considered a work day, but local issues do not rest on the weekend.

  13. Also, as proof she isnt making her story up, she said Narvaiz had on a white long sleeve shirt with what looked like black wind pants. Her husband too had a white tshirt and black pants on.
    And no, there is no local paparazzi 😉

  14. Because she doesn’t care. Nor does the city council. What more proof do we need?

    It took this town at over 30 years to change the mandatory bar closing times on the weekends, regardless of the continuous input from the citizens and small business owners who have been trying to get this changed for so long. It finally took some bright accountant to figure out that we were losing all of that DUI – DWI money to Austin. Once they figured that out, the law was changed. Everything political is about money. That’s just the way it works in our country.

  15. new thread anyone?
    here’s a topic:
    central market vs. whole foods.
    i’ll start. can we have one in san marcos?

  16. I like them both, but Protein Alley is much better at CM. I don’t know that San Marcos could support either. It would hurt my wallet, that’s for sure. A Whole Foods would give us someplace other than HEB and Wal-Mart to get groceries.

  17. DUI/DWI money does not come to San Marcos. It goes to Hays County. That’s a large part of the reason we have so little enforcement.

  18. hahahaha Whole Foods in San Marcos? Central Market? Probably more like Aldi’s, Fiesta or another carniceria.

  19. This is a gross manipulation of individual rights. Nothing more, but most serious. Regardless of how anyone feels about this, cancer-causing, etc., this municipal action is wrong. If they want to fine pet owners for not licensing their pets, all of them, fine – but isn’t the question in fact one of enforcement? When the vets, et al are behind this, a serious question arises. Why? There has to be money behind this.

    Has anyone done replicated research on this topic…any thing published in professional journals? Check it out. I will.

    For some reason, I have known of far too many pet owners who have had tragically ill pets, tried in vain right up to traveling to Texas A&M, contacting the SPCA, et al, and yet had no rights as citizen pet owners. That smacks of a financial conflict of interest on the part of vets, the cities, et al.

    I would never have that put in a pet, much less myself. They are now in the products we buy to track our purchasing habits. BASTA.

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  21. Many of you are taking this way too lightly and acting as if it is a non-issue. Think about why this is happening! The majority of people who lose a pet that they want returned to them will immediately call or go to the shelters to find their pet. And most responsible pet-owners put I.D. tags on their pets which, by the way, seem to work pretty well AND also have never been “mandatory”. MANDATORY is just the shape of more things to come. This issue is already evolving into debates about whether or not children should be microchipped. And there are a lot of people that want to do just that. With societal complacency and even support, it won’t be long before microchipping is mandatory for all children, and then for everyone! This is a bullet in the head of our U.S. Constitution. Unless we act now to stop it, our rights to privacy and freedom WILL be taken away. That is why it is so important to repeal ALL mandatory microchipping laws NOW! To prevent new mandatory microchipping laws from being enacted, and to change the policy of mandatory microchipping for shelter pets! It should be an OPTION for pet owners, not a forced demand!

  22. Rabies tags are currently mandatory in San Marcos and most of the state and since they are have a unique ID number they are a form of ID tag.

    Turning this debate into discussions of microchipping children and grandmothers is a straw man argument. People who can debate facts don’t need straw men. I don’t know a single person who advocates microchipping children and I have seen no one posting here has advocated it. I’m sure if you search the internet, you can find some nutjob somewhere with a blog who advocates this and any fool thing you can think of it. But that does not equate to “lots of people wanting to microchip children”.

    There are no reliable statistics regarding whether the strays who are never claimed are lost or dumped. There is no way to collect this information unless you make the erroneous assumption that if it were lost someone would have found it.

    Very often, a lost animal will be found by someone who really cares about animals. Those who don’t care will just ignore it unless it is being a nuisance. Those people who find the lost animal will be reluctant to take it to a shelter for fear that it will be euthanized. Instead they will try to find the owners on their own with varying degrees of success. So the first place that people look for their animal is the last place many people will take it. Eventually, the finder may give up their search for the owner and turn the lost animal over to a shelter but by then the original owner may have given up their search.

    One of the reasons that shelters, rescues, and responsible breeders microchip is because they are taking on a lifetime responsibility for the animal. If that animal ends up at another shelter or rescue, the original rescuer will take it back and rehome it again. That is not really feasible with tags. Tags get lost. I don’t know how he does it, but one of my dogs has lost his tags and, once,his entire collar at the dog park. And, yes, his collar fits correctly.

  23. Suzanne, I’m sorry… come across as caring individual, but also very innocent. Danielle Kelly is absolutely right about this being a slippery slope. Anyone that is not scared of mandatory micro-chipping should be. Anyone that is not scared of laws being passed under the table such as this one….should be. For those that think this is a joke, please type it micro-chipping for children into Google. It’s done in other countries and is also becoming an issue here.

  24. Mandatory chipping laws are unreasonable and unconstitutional. It is bad for your animal and anyone arguing for it either has something to gain financially or is just being difficult. Why would you want to do something to your pet that you know would give it cancer and ultimately kill it? I can’t believe some of the things I read in these comments. It should be voluntary. What the hell ever happened to a dog collar with tags and fining anyone with no collar and tags.

  25. I also would like to draw attention to the following clause in the new ordinance,

    “and a ban against selling or giving away animals on public property, private parking lots and flea markets.”

    I work for PawMatch, a registered 501c3, non profit, animal rescue and adoption shelter. We rescue animals from shelters across central Texas and since 2005 we have saved the lives of over 12,000 grateful animals. At present this ordinance does not differentiate between a puppy mill setup on the side of the road and a rescue organization such as PawMatch. The reason for our success is that we take our rescue dogs and cats out into the public, drawing attention to the overpopulation problem while working to solve it. I believe the intent of the ordinance is well placed, as it is intended to stop the illegal sale and breeding of pets within the city. As a rescue group, we are entirely behind that intent. However, as it stands, this ordinance will ban rescue groups such as PawMatch from functioning within the city, and in doing so condemn more innocent animals to euthanasia. Shelters such as the San Marcos shelter often exterminate nearly 3 out of 4 animals taken in. The animals we rescue from these shelters beat these odds only because we are there to take them. Our numbers speak for themselves. Bringing this issue out into the public works. We need people to understand the importance of spay/neuter initiatives to bring the animal birthrate numbers down. The following is an excerpt from an article published on on January 22nd, 2009. Written by Andy Sevilla, Associate Editor.
    “Bert Stratemann, the city’s animal services manager, said the ordinance is fine as it stands, adding that he would have preferred an even more extensive ordinance.
    “We’re showing we’re a progressive community that looks out for the welfare and cares about the animals that are in the community,” Stratemann said. “And a community that shows compassion and caring for the animals of the community really is a nice community.””
    I have to disagree with Mr. Stratemann as I do not think this ordinance is fine as it stands, nor do I think it is, “progressive” to ban a non profit rescue group from saving the lives of innocent animals in your community.

  26. The inhumane “breeder” of my dog- did her own tattoo to the puppy – no anesthesia and at 3 yrs old the tat is unreadable…pinpricks and green ink is inhumane.
    Unconscionable to do that to a puppy.
    Microchips are far superior.

  27. Maybe these people should volunteer just one day at their local shelter and they would understand… hundreds of animals enter the shelters every day and very few find their way home. If I had a penny for every “my dog wasn’t wearing a collar because he just had a bath” lost ads I saw, ugg. And if they had ever spent just 10 minutes at a clinic that tattoo’s, or even worse a backyard breeder who tattoo’s- it isn’t hard to figure out what procedure is more humane… not to mention cost effective. PLUS! After just a few short years tattoo’s often fade to the point you cant read them anyway. EDUCATE YOURSELF PEOPLE! C’mon!

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