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Animal control law changes debated

January 18, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

Ten people spoke Tuesday at a public hearing on changes to the county's animal control law, with most objecting to changes related to kennels and farm animals.

The discussion, scheduled for 30 minutes, lasted about 75 minutes.

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Objections and questions raised about the ordinance, which was last revised in 1990, prompted Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook to say that a vote on the changes would not be taken within a month as he had expected.

The vote might have to be put off for several months because of needed revisions, he said.

The last public hearing on proposed changes was in January 1999.

The changes were requested by the Humane Society, formerly the Washington County Society for the Prevention of Animals, which handles animal control for the county.

Ruth Rowe, founder of KitCat and Critter Rescue, told the commissioners that it took her only about 10 minutes to collect approximately 50 signatures on a petition opposing a change to the kennel law.

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In all, KitCat and Critter Rescue members, who rescue animals in the county, have collected about 500 signatures of people opposed to broadening the scope of kennel laws, she said.

The existing ordinance requires residents to get a kennel license if they have three or more adult dogs.

Under the proposed ordinance, a home would be considered a kennel if it had more than five animals over the age of six months.

The ordinance doesn't distinguish between dogs, cats and other animals when counting animals, defining animals covered by the document as "any living, nonhuman, vertebrate creature."

Angie Harsh, a former Animal Control Authority member, said kennels are traditionally for dogs, not for all animals, and that the proposed changes are a mistake.

The proposal distinguishes between commercial and noncommercial kennels but all kennels would have to be licensed and maintain humane conditions.

A kennel is considered commercial if its goal is to make a profit, County Attorney Richard Douglas said. The number of animals in a kennel is not a factor in deciding if it is commercial, he said.

The Humane Society inspects kennels only when complaints are filed but would begin checking them annually as they seek the annual licenses, Douglas said.

Other speakers questioned the wisdom of changing the ordinance to remove a full exemption from the ordinance for all animals on farms.

The Humane Society wants that changed so it can respond to calls of farm animals running loose, Haden said. Farm animals now are exempt except for provisions dealing with cruelty and licensing.

The commissioners in October nixed a controversial proposed change that would have cut from five days to three the length of time the shelter would have had to hold stray animals before making them available for adoption.

If there was no room at the shelter, the animals could have been euthanized after three days under the rejected proposal.

The proposal re-establishes the Animal Control Authority, giving it more guidelines and more power to address residents' complaints. The authority could issue civil fines as well as order animals euthanized.

The authority would be changed from an advisory board to a quasi-judicial board, Douglas said.

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