For more about the March 3 San Marcos City Council meeting, tune in “City Beat.” Photo by Eric Weide.
By ANDY SEVILLA
As the clock ticks towards the April 1 implementation of a new animal control ordinance mandating microchip registration for dogs and cats, the San Marcos City Council has decided to take up the matter for the first time since passing the ordinance in December.
The council has placed the ordinance on its March 3 agenda for discussion, with the possibility of providing direction to the city staff.
This ordinance has developed into much controversial discourse among citizens and city officials alike, revolving around the mandatory microchipping of animals. Councilmembers John Thomaides and Chris Jones are sponsoring the discussion, but are remain quiet about what they intend produce.
“I have some things that I’d like to offer as ideas,” Thomaides said. “But I’m going to wait for the meeting to get into those.”
City residents have voiced dismay over the microchipping order in the legislation, bringing up issues concerning health, privacy, religion, moral standing and lawlessness. City officials have admitted enforcement will be next to impossible, except in certain situations of continued complaints on pets or cases in which the creature makes it to the San Marcos Animal Shelter. Rob Roark, member of Hays Liberty, said residents want identification options for pets, and not an “unacceptable” mandate.
“Most of us agree with 99 percent of the ordinance,” Roark said. “A lot of time and effort went into it. But the citizens of San Marcos want to have a choice.”
Roark said changing one word would provide for an unequivocal welcoming of the ordinance as its effective date approaches.
“We ask that the wording be changed now, from mandatory (microchipping) to voluntary (microchipping),” Roark said. “The clock is ticking. We need this to move forward before the first of April.”
Roark may find help behind the dais. Councilmembers agree “more important” issues face the community, but remain open to ideas and suggestions that may improve the sentiment residents may have towards the animal control ordinance.
“I think this council has shown time and time again that we want to listen to (citizens’) concerns and address their issues,” said Councilmember Pam Couch. “We want to make the best decision for the community as a whole. We just need to make a decision and stick with it. There are a lot of important issues we need to address.”
Said San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz, “I have no problem with us reconsidering the ordinance and lessening the reach of the government on the citizens.”
Narvaiz originally was the voice of opposition to the ordinance as it was first written. After city staff rewrote was she called “ambiguous language” and “over-reaching government,” she, along with the council, unanimously accepted the legislation, not foreseeing any public outcry.
However, San Marcos residents are not alone in disagreeing with the mandate. Katherine Albrecht, a nationally syndicated radio show host, has mentioned her disapproval of the legislation on more than one occasion. She will be present at the council meeting and is expected to provide expert testimony to the elected officials during the citizen comment period.
As the animal control ordinance is on the city council agenda as a discussion item, a vote will not take place. Residents will be provided the opportunity to voice opinion on the matter during the 30-minute citizens’ comment period when the meeting begins.
Each person is limited to three minutes during citizens’ comments,, meaning the council could hear from as few as ten people on this and other issues in the docket, including a controversial re-zoning proposal on Hunter Road and Wonder World Drive, a “host responsibility” ordinance revision that already has been tabled for lack of support, and a measure to extend bar hours to 2 a.m..
Couch said that, in retrospect, the council “should have not jumped the gun” and should have the asked the city’s animal shelter advisory board, which recommended the animal control ordinance, to practice more “due diligence.”
Narvaiz said she is “thankful” for the work city voluntary boards do, but, in this case, she said more could have been done. She said residents should use every available tool to make sure they get a chance to express themselves, specifically during first readings of proposed legislation. In doing so, Narvaiz said, the council can consider other pressing issues, rather than devoting a lot of time and energy to one.
“We appreciate all the input,” Narvaiz said. “I would encourage all citizens to look online and use the city website to see when things are coming to council.”
For now, Thomaides said the council can give direction to staff. The Animal Shelter Advisory Board members are currently researching viable options to microchipping and are scheduled to discuss them at their next meeting. Residents will also be able to participate in the public hearing scheduled during the advisory board meeting. A date for the meeting has not yet been finalized.
“We will deal with this issue,” Thomaides said. “I’m sure of it.”
Several events connected with opposition to mandatory microchipping are scheduled to precede the March 3 council meeting, including:
· Luncheon with Albrecht on March 3, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at Grins Restaurant. She will speak on radio-frequency identification (RFID), as well as on the government’s ability to track citizens.
· Albrecht will speak at the Texas State University quad on March 3, from 3-4 p.m. In case of inclement weather, the meeting will move to the Associated Student Government (ASG) room in the LBJ Student Center, Room 3.9- 9 1.
· Citizens for Ear Tattooing (CETI), who prefer alternatives to the microchip mandate, will hold a rally at the City Dog Park on Tuesday, March 3, before the 6 p.m. city council meeting. CETI will speak with citizens and pet owners on the repercussions of the legislation as it stands. Afterward, CETI plans to march peacefully to the council chambers, in efforts to speak against the animal control ordinance.Email | Print