Monday, March 23, 2009

SMD4 Council contest

I hope our voters have recovered a bit from “voter fatigue” as we do have a city election coming up May 9. There will be no school board election, second time in a row, due to lack of opposition to the incumbents. In the city races, Council members Morrison and Farmer drew no opposition, they will be on ballot, but unopposed. The at-large race for Mayor drew two new candidates, Lars Nyberg and William T. Bryan, Jr. I hope to have an article on that race soon

An interesting race is developing in SMD 4 between Fredd Adams and Richard Bart. The incumbent, Emilio Perez-Jimenez is retiring, as he promised he would do when elected. A note to anyone in SMD 4: if you have moved there since the last election, but have not notified Elections, you might find that you can only vote in your previous precinct, rather than where you now live. One of the details of election law, failing to give elections a change of address doesn't mean you can't vote; it means you will vote ONE time only, in the precinct their records still have you. If you moved from the Lake to 14th St. without notifying elections, you can vote on the Mayor's city-wide race, but not the SMD4 race where you now live. If this applies to you, and you wish to vote where you reside, you have until April 8 to notify Elections of your new address. Phone is 659-6541-2.

Today I am writing on the SMD 4 contest, I hope to get to the mayoral race shortly.

Both candidates were willing to spend time responding to questions. This Blog does NOT endorse candidates, but we try to give readers a view of the positions represented.

A brief bio first. Fredd Adams is a 12 year resident, a pastor and mortician. He has a history of community activism and involvement with the WTOS advocacy organization. Mr. Bart is an Air Force veteran, former San Angelo police officer, taught Spanish and coached one semester at Edison before being called to active duty on the IMA program. He is currently co-manager of the Sherwood Way Wal Mart.

I opened the interview asking, what are your priorities, what are your primary campaign talking points going to be?

Adams told me his slogan was going to be “Continued community commitment”. He stressed his involvement with WTOS and advocacy for the Blackshear community and said he wanted to make sure we “didn't forget what has been done, nor forget what needs to be done”.

Bart on the same topic mentioned his personal involvement in Blackshear, he wanted to make sure the city continued its partnership with National Guard and Corps of Engineers in clearing blighted and condemned houses in that community.

I asked about city employee pay.

Bart responded that we had spent too much money on the comparable pay study, the information could have been obtained for less money, but city employees, from water to police, deserve a raise approaching the comparable pay.

Adams responded that not only city employess, but all workers in San Angelo deserved a living wage. He declined to put a dollar figure on that, and did not characterize it as a city minimum wage. Adams was willing to describe what he sought as a “wage that would allow a married couple with children to afford adequate food, safe and affordable housing, and the parents not having to work two jobs each, so they could have time with their families”. Adams added he would want to look at the medical benefits given city employees.

I asked Adams, focusing on city pay only, if the pay raise could not be found in the budget, would you support a tax increase to achieve it? He responded he would only support any tax increase if a canvass of his SMD4 voters showed the people he was elected to represent were willing to approve it.

Same question to Bart, he responded he would support no tax hike without a city-wide referendum in support.

I asked about their opinion of the Economic Development Corporation's use of our half-cent sales tax.

Adams said he would give them a grade of “B”, they seem to be on the right track. Bart said he wanted them to focus on bringing in businesses with a good pay scale, but thought they were making progress in that area.

Moving to the Police Force and the problem of retaining good officers as well as attracting new officers.

Bart's response went back to the comparable pay study, yes we are losing good people to other cities as well as the Border Patrol. He said his primary reason for leaving SAPD was that, much as he loved the job, he could not provide for his family on that pay, he had kids and college, etc. to consider and had to leave for that reason over all. He would also advocate for “community policing”; having an officer become more than a faceless uniform in a passing car, but a person the neighbors knew and would be more likely to confide in.

Adams, while favoring a pay raise, as for all employees, told me he did not believe we would move past a retention problem so long as we had an elected Police Chief. He specifically did not point fingers at the current Chief, but said he thought the quadrennial divisiveness brought about by elections had, and would continue to have, a negative effect on morale and cost us officers.

As to the recent “Doggie” ordinances, it seems that 4-3 vote is likely to shift whichever candidate prevails.

I asked why they chose to run, it certainly isn't the money:

Adams was the first to file and told me he “did not want to do this. I encouraged other people, but when I saw no one else willing, I decided someone needed to do the job”. Bart stressed his history of service, thought it was his time to step up. Both candidates expressed the opinion that we have now the best Council in their experience, and they wanted to be part of it. Not quite identical language, but on that point very close.

I did ask Adams one question I had not put to Bart. In that he was a pastor, did he have an opinion as Councilman Morrison's comments following the Muslim invocation at Council and the little tempest that stirred?

He responded that “our Founders were men of deep religious faith. In God we trust... I do not believe we should have had a Muslim prayer to open Council. We are a Christian nation”. Our conversation had gotten somewhat informal, and I asked, “Is this something you would object to seeing published? I don't have to use it.” He responded that he had no objection to seeing it in public.

Conchoinfo does not endorse candidates. As close as I will come; we have two decent, honest men vying for an open seat. I urge the voters to listen closely to their campaigns. In my opinion, SMD4 (not my district) is in a win-win situation, both the city and the district would be well served by either candidate.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Doggie Dilemma

I intended this as a comment to one of JWTs posts, but I think it worth a post.

Last Council meeting, I took a day, ended up jumping up and down like the "Whack-a-Mole" in the kids game.

True story here, to set the background. We have a terrier/jack russel mix female. Never intended to breed her, but we were advised it was better for the dog to wait until after first heat to spay the animal. I do not hold that is true, but I do know a lot of people, including some veterinarians, believe it.

Comes the aforementioned "first heat", our normally docile bitch digs out of the fence, visits with a neighbor's chihuahua, and in the fullness of time, presents us with four adorably cute, but wholly unintended, puppies. As I told Council, we have placed the pups in loving homes, and as soon as they were weaned, we had momma spayed.

I offered at last Council session, an amendment; a once-in-the-life-of-the-dog exemption from the $100 breeder fee. It seemed well received, Farmer initially moved it with "Mr. Ryan's" Amendment, looked good for passage. Then there was other comment, something about 50 dogs in a yard (which had nothing to do with the matter at hand), next thing we know, what is on the table Tuesday passes: Barely.

Points that strike me here: the pet/person relationship is as dear as that with a child to some people; the pet nuisance, if allowed, is important to neighbors of pet owners; and in my opinion as desirable as might be the objective of encouraging spay/neuter to limit unintended population explosion, this ordinance, as written AIN'T GONNA GET US THERE!

As JWT mentioned, there are 70-some bills in the Legislative hopper on animal control, maybe 6 or 7 locally significant. My position now, as I related to Council, I prefer no law to bad law. Good intentions do not necessarily make good law. The road to Hell is paved with what material, my Mother taught me? We have here a problem, not a crisis. We have the luxury of being able to pause, take a deep breath, wait until the Legislature gives birth to whatever it will, and come next summer, let's revisit this matter with more information on the table.

My advice: we have a brand new Animal Services Board chairperson, let that board digest the comments now on the table, take some more, then come before Council in the slow season and present EXACTLY the board's recommendations, something I hear did not happen March 3.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Animal Control Legislation

While we have been struggling with animal control issues here, a new legislative session has convened and numerous bills related to animals have been introduced. ( Check the Texas Legislature Online.) Some of them relate directly to our ongoing problems.

HB 3180 and its companion SB 1910 cover commercial dog and cat breeders and dog and cat dealers. There are some good points to the bill, but there is likely to be some confusion because the definition of a commercial breeder is different than the federal definition of a commercial breeder. It also includes a definition of hobby breeder which is different than what I would prefer, but will work in my recommendations. Our current zoning ordinance definition of animal kennel would include commercial breeders and dealers by implication. If this bill passes, we need to either update the animal kennel definition to include commercial breeders and dealers, or specifically reference commercial breeders and dealers in the code of ordinances. There are also new requirements on buyers rights, which are probably overdue and requirements for veterinarian inspections which are needed. I think that setting 11 unaltered females as the threshold for a commercial breeder may not be the best way to separate commercial breeders from hobby breeders but it's probably the most likely to succeed politically. The difference in the Federal and proposed Texas definitions is not likely to have much effect on our local animal control issues.

HB 2001 and its companion SB 634 covers the restraint of dogs. It effectively eliminates the tieing out of dogs, (exceptions for camping, agriculture, training) and it adds a 150 sq ft minimum enclosure size. For reasons I stated in " Enclosing a Problem", I think this bill will cause more problems than it solves. It would eliminate the need for the original enclosure proposal that was brought before council, but I really can't support it.

We need to keep following these bills. They will impact how the city does animal control, but they really don't have that much impact on my recommendations. The breeders bill will give us a definition of "Hobby Breeder", and will add some record keeping, notification, and buyers rights requirements that fit in well with a "Know your seller" campaign. It does appear that some space requirements will be created if the breeders bill passes, but those will only apply to commercial breeders and dealers.

Overall, there are currently 70 bills dealing with animals before the Texas Legislature. There are about 11 that I will be following that might be relevant to our local animal control. There are others I am likely to be commenting on in the future, but click on the Check the Texas Legislature Online link I provided earlier, and see for your self.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Animal control recommendations

As I promised, I will make recommendations for animal control and related ordinances but first we need a quick review of some facts and problems.

We have a large number of stray and abandoned animals. The number euthanized each year is heartbreaking. We don't want to make this problem worse.

We probably have only 20% to 30% of the pets in town licensed and vaccinated. This leads to other problems, especially with health and public safety. What are we actually using this licensing information for? We really need to examine our whole approach to licensing.

This ongoing interest in ordinance changes was triggered by cases of irresponsible people running puppy mills in residential areas. The problem surfaced because of complaints from neighbors, and is still an issue because of the poor initial response. Part of the problem may be from poor ordinances and regulations but much of it is due to inadequate resources used ineffectively and not in a timely manner.

The pictures from the puppy mill raids show cases of animal cruelty. They were caught because they were in residential areas and neighbors were fed up dealing with it. I am concerned that this problem would not have been detected or dealt with if the puppy mill had not been in a residential district.

Animal control is limited in personnel and resources. We don't need to divert resources with unnecessary paperwork.

We do need increased community involvement on all animal related issues. Anything we do should enlist responsible pet owners, animal rescuers, and hobby breeders. We must not alienate them.

Public health and safety is the first concern. Health and safety of the animals is next in line.

We already have an ordinance covering Animal Kennels, which covers keeping, breeding, boarding, or training animals for commercial gain. These are limited to non-residential areas. The conditional use matrix only lists overnight boarding, which may cause confusion on what is meant. This section of the zoning ordinance does not allow a puppy mill in a residential area.

There are no space requirements for animals in the current code of ordinances. The animal control section on pens, yards, and enclosures does cover sanitation. The quality or size of the enclosure is not addressed.

So what are my recommendations? Lets start with breeders and pet sales.

Pet sales are already somewhat restricted by the zoning ordinance. Those for commercial gain are restricted to some commercial and manufacturing districts. The animal control ordinance needs to state that offering for sale or trade of pets is not allowed in a residential area with 3 exceptions: The hobby breeder, the animal rescuer, and the accidental breeder.

The hobby breeder and the animal rescuer must have permits issued by animal services after an inspection is done of the facility. Qualification and inspection guidelines will be developed by the ASB and approved by Council.

An accidental breeder would be allowed to sell one litter over the life of the pet, as long as proof that the pet was neutered is presented to Animal Services with 60 days. The accidental breeder would also have the option of qualifying as either a hobby breeder or rescuer. If none of those 3 happen, then they are subject to a fine.

Now on to enclosures. The ordinances already cover sanitation, so we need to add that the enclosures need to be securely built. They need to be built so they do not injure the animal. They need to be built so they are easily cleaned, and they need to be sized appropriately for the animal. They must provide shelter from the weather and access to water. Rather than require measurements and calculations like the APHIS standards for commercial breeders do, we can go with small, medium, and large sizes. For animals that share their living space with their owner (house pets) only 25% of the living space should be allowed for the animal space calculations. Enclosure and space regulations will limit the number of animals on a property based on what that property can realistically handle.

There need to be guidelines on tethering. A minimum tether length (8' for a small dog, 10' for a medium dog, 12' for a large dog?) is needed. The dog should not be tethered where he can get tangled. Shade, shelter, and water must be available for the tethered dog. Any method of tethering likely to cause pain or injury to an animal should not be allowed. Examples include choke, pinch, or prong collars.

We need to redo our licensing fee schedule. At the minimum we need to put the pot bellied pig on the list. I recommend that we also set a higher fee for non-sterile animals. Not a punitive fee, but a difference that is enough that a pet owner gets a long term break for altering their pet. Significant work for animal services is a result of the offspring of unaltered pets, so paying more for that privilege seems appropriate. We can also use the license fee to promote positive goals for animal control. For example: Get your pet neutered, get that years license free. Get your pet vaccinated, discount on the license fee. Adopt a pet from the shelter, get a discount on a lifetime license. Eliminate the lifetime license for most unaltered pets (exceptions for show dogs and working dogs.) I would also make the License term the same length as the vaccination term (there are 3 year vaccinations, so have the license coincide with the vaccination.)

I recommend we make the animal license database available to first responders. When the fire trucks roll up, it would be good if they knew how many pets were in the building, if there were any special assistance animals inside, etc.. This would be valuable to first responders and the general public.

Last recommendation is that the city start a "Know your seller" information and education campaign. We need to let the people know the problems that puppy mills and irresponsible owners cause.

This is not quite ready for an ordinance yet, but it is where we need to start. We don't need to do all of it right now, but we need to settle the breeder and enclosure issues soon.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Breeding Contempt

It is time for me to cover the last animal control proposal: Breeder permits. This proposal has a host of problems.

The original language requires a $100 breeders permit for anyone that "sells, trades, or gives away" the offspring of their unaltered dog or cat. This is problematic for a number of reasons. First, it penalizes a person whose pet gets pregnant before they can get it neutered. I have seen where many veterinarian organizations are recommending adolescent neutering but not many people do this. Many times neutering a pet is an economic decision. Save up to get the pet neutered or wait until the animal shelter is offering vouchers again and gamble that princess doesn't get pregnant. If they lose the bet, the pet owner has to keep the offspring until they can get their pet neutered. That could be a problem.

This problem affects rescuers as well. They rescue a dog or cat that was mistreated and had pups or kittens. It may take a long time to nurse that animal to where it is healthy enough to be neutered. Until the rescued animal is either sterilized, transferred to another owner or euthanized, the rescuer is stuck with the offspring or forced to buy a breeders permit for an animal he won't be keeping. No exception. No appeal.

The original language also makes it more difficult to convict a puppy mill operator. Even if they advertise in the paper they have pets for sale, unless you can prove they actually sold, traded or gave away an animal, you only have intent to be a breeder. It is likely the city will add the words "offers for" to the sells, trades, or gives away which will effectively close that loophole but you still have a problematic breeders ordinance. There is another loophole because a breeder is defined as someone that owns an unaltered animal and sells, trades or gives away the offspring. If the breeder gives away the unaltered animal to a friend first, then they can sell the offspring with no problem. The friend can then give the unaltered animal back once all the offspring are sold. Irresponsible breeders will game the system and they can be very good at finding loopholes. Which brings me to my next point.

There is an overlooked group of pet owners I will call the hobby breeders. These include people that participate in dog and cat shows. These shows require that the animals are unaltered. In addition, many owners of hunting and working dogs don't want to neuter their dogs because they feel it affects their natural hunting and herding instincts. We have vasectomies in our ordinances as an acceptable method of sterilization because of just this issue. These hobby breeders are not in it to make money. This is not their business. It is frequently their passion. They do breed and sell some animals. The breeding is frequently in an attempt to produce a better animal whether for show or for work. Some hobbyists I know spend more money on their animals and shows then they will ever make selling animals. These hobbyists don't breed for money, they breed for the love of their animals and hobby. They take pride in their animals and care for them properly. With few exceptions, they are good neighbors.

Hobby breeders as a rule try to work with the government and other groups to solve animal control problems. They will reluctantly accept a small permit fee and reasonable inspections as long as they can see some value to the city and to themselves. I don't think that the proposed ordinance changes as they stand today will be seen that way. They will be seen as inflexible, arbitrary, punitive, and invasive, and not really addressing the problem. The problem is not with what a puppy mill or hoarder has but what they do with what they have. Most of the suggested ordinance changes do not address the bad behaviors.

In my next article I will give you my thoughts on the changes I think the code of ordinances needs to address these animal control problems.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Enclosing a problem

The second animal control ordinance proposal presented deals with dog restraints and enclosures. There is one part of it that is needed. It prohibits the use of choke, pinch or prong collars unless the dog is under direct supervision and control of the owner. These collars should never be used to tie out a dog as they can cause serious injury or death to the dog. The rest of the proposal has some serious problems.
The proposal starts off stating that it is unlawful for any dog to have a primary living area outside of a secure enclosure. "Secure enclosure" has two different meanings. Does it mean a securely built (as in sturdy) enclosure. Or does it mean one secured by locks, latches, etc. as in a secured building.

Next they say that an outside enclosure must be at least 150 square feet if it is used as a primary living area or almost any other function associated with being a dog. The number is arbitrary (I find no research or state or federal regulations that use this number.) There is also no mention at all about indoor enclosures. I guess that it's okay to have 20 dogs in your garage as long as you don't have an outdoor enclosure they use. The proposal doesn't address that at all.

They seem to have copied much of this section from Austins animal control ordinances, so why didn't they copy the important parts which read

(A) A person may not keep an animal, fowl, bird, or reptile in an enclosure unless the enclosure is:
  1. securely built;

  1. adequately sized for the kind and number of animals, fowl, birds, or reptiles housed in the structure

  1. maintained in a sanitary condition that does not allow flies to breed or cause an odor offensive to an adjacent residence or business; and

  1. in compliance with the applicable requirements of this article.

After you have that, the 150 square foot requirement is not needed. Without that, you have huge loopholes.

The last problem is the prohibition against tethering a dog. I don't like tethering or chaining a dog out, but for some people there really is no other good option. Most people in rent houses have no choice about whether there is a fenced in back yard. A 10' by 15' enclosure for a dog would be expensive to build if the landlord allowed it. And we need to remember that there are dogs that a fence won't keep in.

For a while I was watching a dog that was part blue heeler and part basset hound. He dug under my chain link fence repeatedly. He was had done this before I had him, and did it with his next owner on occasion. He was friendly, gentle, and neutered and only escaped when his curiosity was aroused but the only way to keep him in was to chain him. My sister had a dog that figured out how to scale their 8' privacy fence. They ended up using one of the invisible fences in addition to the privacy fence until they moved out in the country where their dog had 6 acres to roam on.

We do need good guidelines on safe tethering for dogs, but to prohibit it altogether is not a good solution.

The last problem is that a separate enclosure for a female with puppies is a luxury that many families can't afford. For most families, the separate enclosure would be a big box in the garage, bathroom or a bedroom.

If this ordinance goes into effect there will be a huge increase in animals abandoned. Rather then spend already limited funds on a fence or enclosure the family can't afford (and might not be able to get built in 15 days), the dog will be abandoned.

It is obvious that this section was written by someone with no concern for the cost to implement it. They forget that poor people have and love their pets too. I am sure the fence companies around here could use the business but the goal is supposed to be effective animal control. This proposal doesn't meet that goal.

The Times They Have A'Changed

I have been busy this morning changing every appliance in the house to "spring forward". Thanks to our gov't nannies, I get to re-familiarize myself with all the household electronics twice a year. Right now, I'm trying to decide whether it is more cost-effective to continue my search for the manual on my new watch or just go buy another one. I guess that could chalk up to economic stimulus except that I'm sure a new watch would have been made in China.

Some stray thoughts on this fine and expedited Sunday morning.

I went to the sidewalks meeting at Lincoln. City staff has done some really good work. They had a map showing a 5 year history of pedestrian/vehicle accidents, 250+ total. As one member of the public commented, right at one per week. Higher than we might want, maybe less than a tax-increasing emergency. They did not have data on age/cause/even time of day. For instance, we saw one cluster of four at S Chadbourne and Av. L A fellow ventured "hey, there's a school there". I mentioned, purely in passing, yes, there is a private school a block south and around the corner, BUT, right there we have a beer-joint. Any connection; nobody had that info. Just pointing out, there might be some details worth fussing about, but there will be at least one more public meeting (no date yet) and the public is invited to chime in online. My opinion, if you bother to e-mail, staff WILL read it, they genuinely care about doing this right.

The consensus was new development; absolutely. As to existing streets, there lies the rub. Folks, I live on Bryan St. a three block long residential. It Ts into Bell, it is a short-cut to nothing, the kind of street kids play on without having to interrupt their games very often. As I told staff, if you were to come along and promise all my neighbors new sidewalks with zero assessment, they would tell you to go away, we don't need the construction nuisance.

Now, turn the corner from my house, walk north on Bell St.; taking your life in your hands, we have gone from a comfortable neighborhood stroll to 40 MPH dodge-cars and that's if everybody is obeying the speed limit that day. Otra vez, to cure that, some of the houses west side of Bell are right on the road, build a sidewalk, we're in somebody's living room AND charging them for removing their front porch. Look back to my earlier post, I asked, if we decide a sidewalk on one side works, do both sides pay, or do we just assess the lucky guy who gives up part of his lawn?

Aside from such quibbles, staff has done a bang-up job on this. A good point raised was how much pedestrian traffic increase we might see, if the pedestrians felt safe on a sidewalk as opposed to playing dodge-car. If we build it, will they come? I like to think so. I see people actually drive to, then walk along, Concho St. along the river. Might be the scenery, but day after day, same view, I don't think so, they are looking for a safe place to walk off calories. Give them that safety in their neighborhoods, they might walk there. Lots of benefits from that: pounds shed, healthy hearts, a community-watch by-product, heck, if we ain't careful we might get to know our neighbors!

By and large, we came from the meeting impressed that staff has a handle on prioritizing a good idea. There will be another such meeting, it is not yet scheduled, but I will say this: if you are interested, attend. Unlike some "public" forums of days gone by, staff is not "telling" us what is about to happen, they are really listening.

I almost missed my Sunday morning services (the network news shows) on account of the time change. Since I didn't miss them, I will save you the trouble; You missed NOTHING! The party in power is lying and mis-characterizing the party out of power, which in turn is outrageously lying about the new administration. I'm shocked, shocked I say to hear this.

San Angelo has so far been insulated from this downturn. We are fretting about 5% unemployment, a figure Michigan would die for. Housing has slowed, but local developers are still building. The "underwater" mortgage market isn't here, our home values actually increased about 4% last quarter. Realtors who are taking unemployment elsewhere might be scrambling here, but they are still selling houses. The oilfield is taking a hit, but Karnak predicts that will turn around.

We have seen our new President advise investors to "buy", something I have never seen. BTW, following that bit of advice Thursday, the market dropped 7%. Might be why former Presidents stayed out of the investment counseling business. OK, give him a break, he's on a steep learning curve. Markets can live with more or less gov't control, but what any market lusts after in its heart is STABILITY! ie. if the investor invests, the rules won't change next Tuesday.

Trivia exercize for the political junkie: Google "Aaron Schock". Not everything out of the Land of Lincoln is an embarrassment to his name.

Stability being too much to wish for, in the interim Karnak is putting his limited money into canned goods and hard metals.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Problems by the numbers

Last Tuesday, another update to the animal control ordinances was put before the City council, and after much heated discussion passed first reading with basically no changes. What passed is really heavily flawed and, at least according to the members I have talked to, not really what the advisory committee or the Animal Services Board intended. Lots of mistakes were made before we got here and I am disappointed that they weren't caught before this went before Council.

I'm disappointed in myself for not paying enough attention and doing the research and analysis I have done in the past. I was at the last ASB meeting, and should have paid more attention when they covered the definitions. Instead of the language I expected (offers for sale or trade) in the definition of a breeder was "sells, trades, or gives away," which is not what I had originally heard. The definitions were covered something like "Anyone have a problem with the definitions?" and then we started tackling the wording of the ordinances. The meeting started late. There was not a quorum at the beginning, and the Animal Services Director was calling members to try to get one there for the meeting. There was a quorum about 15 minutes later, and we started discussing the numbers, etc.. Some changes were made, and they agreed to put the changes to the council in three parts. Staff was supposed to make it into 3 proposals and clean up the legal language. I am disappointed in myself for not noticing some of the problem, such as the lack of the term "offers" in the definitions. Granted, I am not part of either the advisory committee or the ASB, but I do try to pay attention, and I should have looked and listened closer. I will try to do better in the future.

I want to critique these proposals in the reverse order they were presented. I will start with the "Multi-pet" permit. I opposed this one from the beginning and stated that at the ASB meeting. It is an unnecessary burdensome extra layer of bureaucracy. Granted, there is currently no fee envisioned, but that doesn't mean it's free. It takes resources for animal services to print, distribute, collect, process and store all of the possible permits. It takes time and transportation for the citizen who owns multiple pets to comply with this proposal. Looking at what it costs to process similar paperwork, we are probably talking in the range of $20 to $50 per permit to process this redundant paperwork. The reason given by the proponents of this proposal is that it gives animal control something they can charge someone with on a complaint. Again, I say that it's redundant. There is already an ordinance requiring pets to be licensed and vaccinated. You can be sure that an owner that doesn't do a free permit will not have all his pets licensed and vaccinated. If you find someone with 8 altered pets and no permit, there will already be 8 citations for no license and 8 citations for no vaccinations.

There is also a problem with this proposal when it comes to rescuers. It states that all of a multi-pet owners dogs and cats must be altered. What does a rescuer do when the 8 th animal they want to rescue is a pregnant female? Do we suddenly require them to get a breeders permit? We will wait to discuss the problems of disposing the expected offspring to a later part of the discussion.

Lastly, there is the problem of inspecting a private residence unless there is a complaint or information that there is a problem. There are hundreds of years of common law precedent and tradition that a governments police powers can be broadly used to inspect, and regulate those engaged in business and commercial enterprises. They can inspect Joes kitchen any time they are open with little to no notice. They can't inspect grandmas kitchen unless they have a warrant or have probable cause that a serious crime is in progress. Businesses waive some of their rights for the privilege of operating a business and making money in our city. We shouldn't even contemplate requiring citizens to waive rights just so they can own a few dogs.

I think I will let this sink in for a while before I comment on the other two proposals. I need a break and a chance for my blood pressure to go back down. I still have a lot to say on this issue.