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.

1 comment:

  1. I understand better than most, I was at Council. We were popping up like the "Whack-A-Mole" moles.

    We almost had it; Charlotte Fsrmer's first motion was to adopt with "Mr. Ryan's" amendment on exempting first heat litters.

    There is a distinct difference between the old '57 Chrvy and pets. One goes against that distinction ar one's own risk. Save for the most flint-hearted breeder (and my great-aunt Eva was a chihuahua breeder of some distinction) pets are closer, emotionally, than anything this side of human family members.

    My take on Tuesday was as follows: The Animal Services Advisory committee and its new president stated flatly, "This ain't what we passed on". In part three, multi-pet, we get close to the flat limits I have so stridently opposed.

    Finally, as I closed out to Council; we have a nice town, an economy California and Gov. Girlie-man would die for, a little rain and we're all in heaven. This animal ordinance is a PROBLEM: it is not a CRISIS. We have been scrapping about this for four years, during which time we have not been overrun with puppy-mills in residential neighborhoods. We can afford the time to drop back, take a deep breath, and punt the ball back to our new ASC committee and president.

    Among other things, so long as we are talking "animal control" why is it just dogs and only recently cats? What about rats, bats, elephants, pot-bellied pigs and fighting cocks? Or possibly, is this whole ordinance thing a neighborhood nuisance gone wild? As I stated, city gave me no help on fighting cocks, I "encouraged" my neighbor to move that operation, but the city was zero help, nor would they help under a "dog & cat" ordinance.

    If we want numerical limits, let's go for pigs, llamas, guppies, ferrets, black snakes and the mice to feed them.

    Or, perhaps, we could try to formulate, under a new ASC committee, a new, broad, workable policy. Law passed under "urgent" circumstance nearly always turns out to have undesireable, unintended consequences. While we have the time, and as we are about to see at least one new Council member, let's put this on the back burner for a moment. NO, I'm not saying "forget it", I'm suggesting a new look at the whole problem, maybe even rethinking what parts of the "problem" are really problematic.