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January 22nd, 2009
San Marcos council to revisit animal ordinance

Associate Editor

San Marcos City Councilmembers are about to revisit a new animal control ordinance, which has elicited more controversy than ever since its passage in December.

Among most contentious features of the ordinance is a requirement that all adult dogs and cats are to be microchipped for registration. Citizens have spoken fears that the measure could be dangerous for their animals, along with their concerns about an over-reaching government.

Mayor Susan Narvaiz, who said she wasn’t entirely comfortable with the ordinance when it passed, has placed the matter on Thursday night’s city council agenda.

“Because of the questions being raised, we felt we should bring it back and have those questions answered,” Narvaiz said.

The ordinance is scheduled to take effect on April 1. However, the fall-out from citizens this month has compelled councilmembers to second-guess themselves, opening the possibility that the ordinance could be significantly revised.

“I was feeling really strong about (the animal ordinance) and now I’m listening and looking at both sides,” Councilmember Pam Couch said. “I’m still trying to decide what is best for the community. I have strong convictions one way and strong convictions the other.”

Narvaiz said putting the issue back on the agenda will provide for a satisfactory result.

“I’m not advocating for any outcome,” Narvaiz said. “I’m simply facilitating more discussion on issues brought to our attention by our citizens. I think it’s our job to do due diligence when provided with new information. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Not everybody agrees that further discussion is necessary. Councilmember John Thomaides said all the questions have been asked and enough time has been invested into the ordinance. Thomaides said the city’s animal advisory board spent a year formulating the ordinance in open sessions.

Furthermore, said Thomaides, the city council voted unanimously for the ordinance on the second reading after public comments before the council expressed support. Those discussions were televised locally on the city’s cable channel.

“I wouldn’t support setting it aside,” Thomaides said. “I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why we would repeal it, if that was the intent. I think that would be unwise. This is a good ordinance. Since when do we vote on things, and then set them aside?”

Thomaides added, though, that he is committed to keeping an open mind, should new information compel him to see the matter differently.

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.”

Couch said the animal advisory board could have solicited more public input from the beginning, thus reducing concerns and complaints. Couch said it wasn’t sufficient to hold public education meetings only at the tail end, once the ordinance had been passed.

“As we hear more from our citizens, we have to weigh out all our options,” Couch said. “I didn’t think it was going to be an issue, and it’s turned into one. I can see both sides and need to decide what will be best for our community.”

Stratemann said one of his main concerns is the sheer number of animals the city ends up putting down. The San Marcos animal shelter took in 5,555 animals last year, returning only 682 to their owners. The city exterminated 4,057 animals. Stratemann said microchipping animals, which is a stipulation of the new ordinance, is paramount in reuniting pets with owners and reducing unfortunate killings.

However, the mandatory microchipping of dogs and cats is the most controversial order in the ordinance. Several councilmembers have said they received letters, calls and e-mails in strong opposition to the mandate, although some have been in support.

“I just want to make sure that the questions that were brought forth by the citizens are addressed to the satisfaction of the council,” Narvaiz said. “There should have been more public hearings at the board level before coming to council.”

Despite numerous complaints to councilmembers, none have indicated that a motion to repeal that provision will arise at Thursday’s meeting. But the council will consider all options permissible by law, including the possibility of further delaying the effective date.

“The committee that worked on this is very important,” Couch said. “Their task was to provide an ordinance to protect our animals, and I think they’ve done that. Now, we have to look at this ordinance and make sure that is not way to the left or way to the right, but, instead, an enforceable ordinance for the safety of our animals. I hope the community understands that whatever the decision the council makes will be the best decision for San Marcos.”

The ordinance provides for several alterations of local rules applying to rabies vaccinations, the microchip program, restrictions on tethering, restrictions on the number of animals that can be kept, regulations on feral cat colonies, and a ban against selling or giving away animals on public property, private parking lots and flea markets.

“Our ordinance was not that bad before the changes that were made, but this one makes a lot of clarifications,” Stratemann said. “This new one brings us up to state standards and provides clarification.”

If the San Marcos City Council doesn’t revise its new animal control
ordinance, then Gabi the poodle will have to be microchipped by April
1. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

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15 thoughts on “San Marcos council to revisit animal ordinance

  1. I was not aware of the animal advisory board spending a year in open sessions on this. Where/when were the sessions?

    Many people I have spoken with who originally supported the ordinance (and some still do) thought that the chaining restriction would be in there and had no idea about the microchips. I know this site is the first place I heard about the chips.

    I was able to find mention of two Animal Shelter Advisory Board meetings in 2008. Both at noon on Wednesdays. There was no agenda posted, that I could find. I don’t believe any of the advisory boards have their agendas posted.

    Perhaps part of the solution is an easy to navigate location on the city website, to find all public meeting postings along with the agendas and minutes from those meetings. All of the docs exist, so uploading them in plain text and providing links to download them would not be a huge undertaking.

    Maybe this stuff already exists and I just can’t find it. I see an area for it, but there is nothing there but a list of boards.

  2. The microchipping is something I intended to do for my dog Lou prior to this whole issue – the fact that it would be mandatory makes me not want to do it. I am still going to go ahead with it because I think it is a good idea. I just don’t like anyone saying I HAVE to do something to my pet.

    The issue that no one has talked about, which is still a concern to me, is the mandatory restraining of pets while driving. I know it is a good idea in case of an accident, but so is wearing a helmet (even in a car) and so is driving no faster than 20 mph. Life HAS risks and the Nanny State won’t change that. It will only make life less free.

    That part smacks not of protecting animals, but generating ticket income.

  3. I did not realize we will be required to “restrain” our pets in the car. I guess I need to go find the complete text of what was passed and get educated on these new regulations.

  4. The section about restraining pets in vehicles was removed for the 2nd reading. I believe the intent of that section was to make it illegal to have an unrestrained dog in the back of a truck although that was not clear from the wording.

  5. Please tell me that the part about restraining dogs while in the car is a bad joke. My 14 year-old nephew just lost his best friend in a car accident, because she was texting while driving. And San Marcos would rather screw with our pets??? WHAT IS UP WITH THIS TOWN?? and I don’t know about anyone else, but my dogs make me a much better driver than otherwise, being more careful because they are in the car. This whole thing is so ludicrous and smelly…


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

    And what, exactly is the problem with this? Perhaps rather than giving the pups away, they can be dropped off at the Humane Society for euthanizing instead?

    We need to pay close attention to the ones that are making these laws up folks…..and try to find more intelligent and honest council members next time.
    None of this has any of the “transperancy” that President Obama wants to lead government actions by. This has been quietly passed, with highly edited story lines given to local newspapers and tv reporters. It smells of the government corruption that has been apart of our society for too long. Bush said, “I am the President so I can do anything that I want.” Are we going to be lead in San Marcos, Texas, by council members who have that same attitude?


  7. Sonya , will you be a city council tonight? Go there… express your thoughts because I dont know if all of council reads newstreamz. If your not gonna go then please stop ranting. Put up or shut up. pretty simple to me.

  8. Pingback: QUOTE CORNER : Newstreamz San Marcos

  9. “Since when do we vote on things, and then set them aside?”

    Well, how about since the City Council became intent on ramrodding these types of ordinances through on the Q.T. without bothering to seek public opinion on them?

    Someone needs to remind the City Council that they were elected to work for the public, not rule over it.

  10. Seems like a reason for more city revenue streaming. I can see it now, $200 fine for no restraint in truck or car, $200 fine for no city mandated microchip, $100 court cost for having to appear in front of a judge to pay the fine, a loss of a day’s wages, a minimum amount hours of community service and a 1 month probationary period where if it happens again, your fines are doubled or your probationary term is extended. Then a mandatory pet owners class, that’d cost an additional $75. Next thing you know you’re on a No Fly list all because the cable guy left your back gate opened and Fideuax up and got out. This proposal is total Police/Nanny State crud that only aims to make more criminals out of matters of nothing. I agree that dogs or animals should not be chained all day to a tree or stake, I agree they should be fed and have adequate shelter and care. But do not make it a crime to merely have a pet.

  11. I think your comment is a little incindiary and unfounded, John S. I dont think that is what the city has in mind. It seems a little morose to think we live in a city where our government only wants to punish us. They actually do do some good.

  12. Katie Johnson, my statement was a a bit of satire and I made it only to point out the over reaching power of local govt. over the private citizen. I would agree with you, but then I recently read an editorial in the University Star about this issue how fines for not having your pet microchiped would be as high as $500. Now who in this town can afford that, we barely have jobs that pay $500 a week. So what good does that do us? I believe they should enforce the laws they have that promote animal welfare. So when some one can’t afford to pay their $500 fine, what I stated above you is exactly what will happen. There’s more pressing issues, like responsible growth, green spaces, city schools, and keeping our law enforcement in check so that they do not abuse their power.

  13. “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 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.

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