Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Control Freaking

Animal control, especially dog limits, is still a hot topic. At the end of the last council meeting, they directed the Animal Services board to consider an enhanced Spay and Neuter ordinance, a possible breeders ordinance, and a look at zoning, but left limits on the table. There are better alternatives to limits.

There was some misinformation at the last council meeting, especially on zoning. It was stated that the zoning ordinance made breeding and selling dogs in a residential neighborhood illegal. This is not quite correct. Animal kennels are illegal which "includes any structure or premises where animals ordinarily considered household pets are kept, boarded, bred or trained, for commercial gain." Those are limited to commercial districts.

This is talking about when the primary use of a structure is a kennel. What about when someones pet just happens to have pups in a residence and the owner sells some? Residences fall under a category called household living. Among the allowed accessory uses are "raising of pets, hobbies, home occupations." It also states "Allowed home occupations include, but are not limited to" and gives a list. The few occupations specifically not allowed in a residential area are "Hair cutting or styling shops, nail salons or other beauty or cosmetic-related business. Tattoo parlors. Pet grooming. Any form of repair shop." No mention of breeding. There are restrictions on auxiliary buildings, traffic, etc. but those apply to any home business. It appears that small scale breeding is legal unless you violate other laws such as nuisance, public health or animal cruelty. If we want to do more about breeding with zoning, we must redo the zoning ordinance. We must define when breeding crosses the line into a business that is not suitable for residences. Change the spay and neuter laws and develop a breeders permit. Until then we must use existing tools effectively.

Texas and San Angelo laws make it illegal to "transport or confine an animal in a cruel manner." There are federal guidelines on space requirements, especially for commercial operations and laboratories. There must be adequate space for "freedom of movement and normal postural adjustment." The space must allow a dog "to turn about freely, to sit, stand and lie in a comfortable manner, to walk in a normal manner." The department of agriculture even has a formula and procedure to calculate this space based on an animals size, and whether or not there are pups. The space available for adequate housing puts a maximum limit on the number of dogs that can be properly cared for on the property. This also takes care of the case where animals are jammed into small cages, as was evidently happening in the puppy mill.

This leads into another important point. Violations of zoning and nuisance laws only allow for fines and maybe contempt of court charges. Animal cruelty laws allow for the seizure of dogs, and possible jail time for the owners. Cruelty laws need to be used more effectively. The limit should be space per dog, not the dogs per person.

1 comment:

  1. Good points. Let me be more direct in my opposition; a straight numerical limit wiil not accomplish the stated goal.

    It will put families with more than 6 dogs in the position of either deciding which of 7 dogs to kill; or deciding to quietly violate the law. The latter, more likely option, could lead to people failing to register and vaccinate dogs.

    With the State telling us human rabies vaccine supplies are exhausted, this potential result strikes me as undesireable.