Proposed new and revised ordinances will put more bite into current animal control laws.
The changes are a work in progress, Mayor Dennis Berry said Monday night at the regular council meeting. The McCook City Council took its first look Monday night at the suggestions recommended by the McCook Animal Control Review Committee but took no action.
Instead, the recommended changes will come back to the council in the future and be modified according to what the council wants to do. As with all ordinances, each one will go through three readings before it is adopted.
This will give the public and the council time to consider the information, said City Attorney Nate Schneider. He added that city laws must meet state statutes but cities can be more stringent in local laws to protect its citizens.
Local animal laws can be as stringent as state statutes but not less, he emphasized. All the proposed ordinances are based on current state or city law.
The proposed changes include a wide variety of animal control issues, ranging from the creation of a new animal control officer position, stiffer fines for owners of vicious or potentially vicious dogs, yearly licensing of dogs and cats and creating a new dog park in the city.
Animal Control Review Committee member and McCook City Police Chief Ike Brown said the proposed laws are behavior and not breed specific.
Schneider read through the revised and new ordinances -- 46 in all -- with the council commenting on several.
Councilman Jack Rogers applauded the work done by the committee in addressing these issues and said he's long been in favor of an animal control officer, as police officers have better things to do with their time than chase animals.
He did question whether fines could be used to help offset expenses for an animal control officer, as an ordinance suggested, when it was his understanding that fines go to the school.
Brown said fines can be channeled into areas like this in some instances and Schneider added that state law doesn't make it an impossibility, but that he would study the process in more detail.
Under the proposed ordinances, licensing fees for dogs and cats would be enforced by the animal control officer, with unaltered dogs at $45; altered dogs, $15; unaltered cats, $30 and altered cats, $10. Failure to license or display tags on dogs would result in fines beginning at $50; second offense, $75 and subsequent offenses, $100. Failure to license, display vaccination tags or found at large for cats would be the same as dogs.
In addition, a rabies vaccination would be a condition of the licensing.
The city would issue licenses, maintain a data base of animals and perform annual reviews of licenses.
Licensing for cats is a way to address the feral cat problem, Brown said.
Carlos Dominguez, a recent transplant to McCook from Colorado, attended Monday night's meeting and recounted to the council his son's recent experience with a dog attack.
Dominguez told the council that his son runs frequently in the city in training for cross country and on Saturday, a dog jumped a low fence and bit him on the thigh. Dominguez said the bite didn't break the skin but left a red mark from where the dog's mouth had fit over the leg.
The owner was in the yard at the time and pulled the dog from his son, he continued. Dominquez took his son to the hospital and notified the police, he said, and the owner of the dog was given a citation.
Dominguez said he had nothing against dogs - three of his own dogs still remain in Colorado until a proper facilities can be built at his McCook home and Dominguez used to raise bull mastiffs -- but remains concerned that the results could have been more severe if the attack had happened to a small child.
Members of the Animal Control Review Committee are Brown, City Council member Colleen Grant, Lori Prestes, Marilyn Cuellar, Anne Confer, Amy Strauch,, Dr. Cort Mohr, Dr. Wayne Watkins and Mark Friehe.
Proposed for animal control ordinances, as presented to the McCook City Council include a wide spectrum of regulations based on current state statute, local laws and laws adopted by other municipalities.
These include: limit the number of adult dogs that are located on any premise/residence to a maximum of three;
The City Office of City of McCook will be the entity to issue licenses; maintain database of animals and annual renewal of licenses and to budget, receive, and disperse funds;
Pet owners will have access to animal data base at the city office from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM; annual licensing categories and fees for each category for animals more than six (6) months of age will be: Altered canine: $15 and Unaltered canine: $45.
Enforcement recommended to be provided by the Animal Control Officer and law enforcement; Animals must have licenses and rabies tags displayed on collars. Fines for "Failure to License" and "Failure to Display Tags and Licenses" are recommended to be: 1st Offense: $50; 2nd Offense: $75; subsequent offenses: $100.
Licenses are not transferable; rabies vaccination mandated as a condition of licensing.
License fee exemptions will be for service, guide, and hearing aid dogs; these fees are waived, but license and rabies tags remain required.
Owners are required to report death, offspring, and the new address and owner of all animals leaving, the City. Owners are prohibited from retaining offspring for more than twelve (12) weeks in the City if in violation of ordinances limiting the number of animals allowed at a residence/property.
Owners must retrieve animals from the Animal Shelter within three (3) days. Animals may be placed out for adoption by the Animal Shelter after three (3) days
Animals are prohibited from being at large, must be secured on a lease/other method or inside fenced area inside property of owner, must be on leash when off property of owner in a similar manner as prescribed by current ordinances.
Fines for Allowing animals to be "At Large" (an absolute liability offense) are recommended to be: 3rd I" through 3 Offense: $50 and court costs; and 4th and Subsequent Offenses: $ 100 and court costs
All monies related to Animal Control will be mandated for licensing fees and fines be utilized to offset the cost of animal control enforcement personnel and equipment costs
Animal abuse and neglect issues:
regulate the seizure of abused/neglected animals as is currently in the ordinances;the costs of the seizure, apprehension, prosecution, and boarding costs of animals as evidence in criminal prosecution be assessed to the violators upon conviction; designate a set period of time animals maintained at the animal shelters must be held before the animal shelter is allowed to destroy or adopt animals
Potentially vicious animal and vicious animal issues:
Animal Control and law enforcement are to be the individuals responsible for designation of animals as potentially vicious or vicious in accordance with fedinitions included in state statutes for unprovoked behavior; annual licensing, fees to be: altered potentially vicious canines at $250; unaltered potentially vicious canines at $500; unaltered vicious canines at $500 with the mandate that all animals declared vicious be altered or euthanized.
Enforcement to be provided by an animal control officer and law enforcement; prohibit the sale or transfer of any animal that has been declared Potentially Vicious or Vicious; mandate liability insurance for animals declared potentially vicious and vicious to be at a minimum amount of $ 150,000.
Mandate shelter requirements for potentially vicious and vicious animals as: Shelter must be buried a minimum of one foot under ground level and have a top/roof that prevents the animals from escape; shelter must be a minimum of 10 feet from the perimeter of the property. Warning signs must be posted at the perimeter of the property.
Seizure of animals to be handled as they are currently in ordinances.
Require any medical health care provider, including hospitals and clinics, physicians, veterinarians, veterinary clinics, and ambulances or rescue agencies, which provide treatment or emergency care for an injury to a human being or domestic animal when the injury appears to have been inflicted by a dog bite, is required to immediately report the injuries by telephone to the McCook Police Department.
Mandate the destruction of animals that have been declared vicious and are at large a second time.Prohibit dog fighting and training of animals to be aggressive; mandate repeat offenders of Potentially vicious or Vicious canines not be allowed to own animals for 5 years similar in structure to state statutes.
Fines for Potentially Vicious canines at large be established at $500 and court costs and fines for Vicious canines be established at $ 1,000 and court costs. Persons cited for any animal at large violation be charged with the costs of apprehension, prosecution., impoundment, and boarding of animals.
Premises must be inspected by the animal control authority to verify premises comply with mandated animal housing restrictions prior to the release of Vicious or Potentially Vicious animals from the animal shelter.
Mandate licensing felines and establish licensing costs at $ 10 for alter felines and $30 for unaltered felines and establish fines for failure to license and vaccinate, and failure to display tags at the same rate as for canines. Establish the number of felines/cats that may be owned/kept be 3 per premises/residence
Maintenance or disposition of captured animals to be managed as with canines
Hybrid animals Treat hybrid animals as exotic animals with the same licensing fees, requirements, insurance requirements, and shelter restrictions as Vicious canines.
Other new ordinances the Animal Review Control Committee suggested include:
* a new Nuisance Animal ordinance which makes it a nuisance to have a barking dog that disturbs the peace and order of the neighborhood;
* the creation of an ordinance making the feeding of feral animals a crime.
* creation of an ordinance mandating people pick up after animals (feces) when animals are off their premises in public areas, including sidewalks and parks; appropriate placement and maintenance of signage and animal feces repository stations in public parks and on the Walking Trail;
* make interference with law enforcement and animal control officers a crime and make animal owners legally responsible for damages caused by their animals;
* allow for the destruction of animals which animal control or law enforcement officers are unable to capture; make it it illegal to leave animals unattended in vehicles when conditions endanger the animal; prohibiting the slaughter of animals on public and private property;
* creation of adog park within the city.