File photo The city commission will consider an ordinance that will require pet owners to license their animals.
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Pet owners in the city could soon be required to license their dogs and cats.
Commissioners approved the introduction of an animal licensing ordinance, voting 7-1 in favor during Thursday’s City Commission Meeting.
Under the ordinance, the owner of any dog or cat housed within the city limits would be required to obtain a license and tag for their animal within 15 days of acquiring a pet
Animal rescue groups, police dogs or assistance animals would be exempt.
Proof of rabies vaccination would be required to get the license and owners would be required to either microchip their animal, keep a tag on them or have them tattooed by a veterinarian.
Each license would be good for three years.
Police Chief Steve Sanders said the purpose of the ordinance is to help law enforcement find the owners of animals running at large in the community.
“We want people to be responsible for their pets. The ultimate goal of this is to try to get the pets back to (their) owners,” he said.
Sanders explained the ordinance allows him to deputize agents who could issue the licenses, such as veterinarians, groomers, animal welfare groups, pet stores employees and others to make the process easily accessible for pet owners.
Owners would fill out a card with their contact information and a description of the animal, pay a fee and receive a tag for the animal to wear.
The ordinance does not list a cost for licensing, a point that drew concern from Commissioner Randy Crowder.
Sanders said the costs are still being decided — giving hypothetical numbers of $5 to $10 — but would be included in the final draft presented for vote.
He said the fee charged for the license would be calculated to fund the administrative cost and cost of the tag alone, making the program self sustaining.
Funding concepts to support other programs, such as a spay and neuter program will be devised independently, he said.
Asked by Commissioner Fred Van Solen what the penalties would be for violators, City Attorney Dave Richards said the basic assessment for violating a city ordinance is up to 90 days in jail and or a fine of up to $500.
Sanders said the enforcement of the licensing would take place, “if we catch your dog,” but when queried by Van Solen, acknowledged his department does not have the personnel or resources to do proactive enforcement and the licensing would require voluntary compliance.
“My point is (I have a problem) when we pass ordinances that are pretty much unenforceable,” Van Solen said.
Mayor Gayla Brumfield encouraged commissioners to move the ordinance forward, reminding that the ordinance is the product of nearly two years of work and research by the city’s animal task force, and while, “It’s probably not going to be perfect, at least its a start.”
Van Solen gave the single dissenting vote.
From the point of being introduced, a city ordinance must be published and can not be enacted any sooner than two weeks, according to municipal code.
No specific time line was given for when the ordinance would be presented.