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December 3rd, 2008
Animal control ordinance dominates council meeting

An ordinance designed to modernize municipal law and harmonize it with current state law concerning animal control dominated last night’s San Marcos City Council meeting. The proposed ordinance repeals part of the city code on commercial animal establishments and amends the current municipal law dealing with animals.Councilmember Gaylord Bose was concerned that the proposed law would require pet owners to take a class before the owner would be allowed to retrieve his/her pet from the city’s animal shelter.

“What is the length of the course, what is the cost of the course, when would the course be offered?” asked Bose.

Bose mentioned that, to him, as the law is written, an owner would have to take a class the first time that his/her animal was picked up by the animal control staff. Further, Bose expressed concern about the vagueness in the class requirement. Councilmember John Thomaides said he supported more specificity on requiring people to take a class to regain their pets.

Mayor Susan Narvaiz questioned several elements of the proposed ordinance including where the proposed municipal law goes beyond state law, feral cat colonies, and the requirements of “bedding” and “wholesome” food being required.

Narvaiz questioned if some of the requirements were not too severe and ambiguous at the same time and asked what constitutes “bedding” and “wholesome.” She also pointed out that in response to a number of questions from city council members about enforcement of the proposed law, the city staff answered that it was up to the officer’s discretion and for her, that was when inconsistent enforcement occurs.

Narvaiz also questioned the part of the ordinance that required animals to be restrained when riding in a vehicle, noting that the council voted against such a requirement a few years ago.

“A citation should not be the form that education [on this law] takes,” said Narvaiz.

Councilmember Kim Porterfield asked that the city government develop and implement an animal control ordinance education plan. Porterfield expressed concern that first time offenders would be required to take a course in order to retrieve their pet.

“The requirements seem too stringent for what we are trying to accomplish,” said Porterfield.

The council unanimously approved the ordinance on first reading but left open the possibility that the ordinance could be tabled if there were still outstanding questions about the ordinance at the next meeting.

The council also discussed the city’s contract with Winstead Consulting Group for state and federal lobbying. The current contract expires on December 31, 2008.

Councilmember Thomaides said that he wants to open up the process and cannot vote for Winstead again. Councilmember Chris Jones was concerned that a changed political climate might render the lobbying firm less effective as an advocate for San Marcos.

In the end, the city council directed the city manager to investigate the possibility of a short term three month contract with Winstead and to explain to the council at its next meeting the scope of services he thinks are needed by the city from a lobbying firm.

In other business, the council unanimously approved: a contract with Doucet & Associates to engineer, design, and construct a hike and bike trail along Aquarena Springs Drive, a contract with Stokes Construction Company for the construction of the Central Fire Station Project, and an amendment to StoneCreek Crossing L.P.’s Planned Development District (PDD) Overlay regarding building exterior and roof and parking.

By Ed Mihalkanin

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0 thoughts on “Animal control ordinance dominates council meeting

  1. Forcing residents to take a class before their pet is released is not a good idea. The city council needs to consider the following:
    1. How long the pets are kept at the shelter before being sent ‘elsewhere’.
    2. How much time the owners have to take the class before they lose the right to take back their pet.
    3. Will the shelter hold and reserve the pet for its owner until the class is taken? For how long?
    4. Will the class be free? If not, how much will it cost?
    5. Who is qualified to teach this class?
    6. Does anyone know what the content of the class is?
    7. Is there any evidence that taking such a class is effective for reducing lost pets? If not, then the class is technically useless (except for the person making money from teaching it)
    8. What is the Animal Shelter’s position on this?

    The city council should consider how they would feel in the following situation:
    A repairman comes to their house and accidentally lets a beloved dog escape. It may be the first time the pet has ever escaped, and not through the owner’s negligence. The owner is out of town and cannot get back in the 3-5 days that the shelter keeps the pet until it goes up for adoption. Someone else adopts the pet. If that happened to me, I would be furious.

  2. “restrained when riding in a vehicle”

    Are you kidding me? My dog, Lou has covered over 35,000 miles with me in the car completely unrestrained and not caused so much as a spilled soft drink. I cannot say the same about dozens of humans that have ridden with me. (Including adults unrestrained in the back seat)

    This is RIDICULOUS.

    As ridiculous as unanimously approving an ordinance that you have publicly questioned.

  3. Ridiculous! Seriously does anyone know how to say I do not feel at this time this needs anymore discussion? Put it to the voters so we can change it two years later!

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