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.

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