Pet licensing ordinance vote split

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Animal Task Force Chairwoman Linda Cross told city commissioners Thursday that a pet licensing ordinance will help the city get grant money to pay for enforcement. The ordinance was passed on a 5-3 vote.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Despite objections from three commissioners who called it redundant and unenforceable, the Clovis City Commission adopted an ordinance Thursday requiring all pet dogs and cats in the city be licensed.

Passing 5-3, commissioners in support of the ordinance said it will help force responsible pet ownership.

“We’ve got to make some stand, sometime that it’s a responsibility to own a pet,” Commissioner Len Vohs said.

“I think a lot of times we’re afraid of what might happen … It’s the whole thing of what other communities are doing and if they can do it, we can do it. (I think) we’ll be surprised how well Clovis can respond to an ordinance like this.”

The ordinance will require owners of dogs and cats to obtain a license and tag for their animals within 15 days of acquiring or residing with a pet in the city.

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.

Animal Task Force Chairwoman Linda Cross told commissioners the ordinance — not unlike those found in most states — will enable the city to seek grants to assist in enforcement and other elements of licensing.

It will also aid in enforcing the rabies vaccination ordinance because owners will have to show proof of vaccination to obtain a license.

“It will make Clovis a great place to live and own a pet,” she said.

But those who voted against the ordinance — Randal Crowder, Juan Garza and Fred Van Soelen — argued it was already on the books in the form of a rabies vaccination ordinance and wouldn’t be enforceable.

Crowder said he received numerous phone calls and emails asking him not to support the ordinance, some from people who were involved in trying to enforce a similar one the city had years ago that they told him didn’t work.

Crowder also said he spoke to a local veterinarian who said it would be simple for veterinarians to share their database of rabies vaccinations to aid law enforcement in finding owners of wayward animals.

Crowder said he believes the rabies ordinance, which requires a pet to wear a tag, is sufficient.

“It seems like our existing ordinance does what our new one is proposed to do,” he said.

Police Chief Steve Sanders pointed out using the databases of veterinarians is problematic in that they are only available during office hours.

“We’re just looking for our own (database) that we can access 24/7,” he said. “The whole thing is to get pets back to owners.”

Crowder asked Sanders about the cost of the licensing process, expressing concern it was not outlined in the ordinance.

Sanders said based on preliminary information the cost of a tag and application is around 13 cents and he thinks its possible the program may be self-sustaining with the proceeds collected from fines.

In the event there is a cost associated, Sanders said he would return for commission approval before implementing it.

Van Soelen, who objected when the ordinance was introduced March 11, said he still believed it was superfluous and invasive.

“I think it’s basically unenforceable. It’s going to basically make responsible pet owners pay ,” he said.

“(And) it basically means we’re requiring government permission to own a pet in Clovis.”

Sanders said the ordinance will go into effect in 60 to 90 days and the public will be notified through the media.

Sanders previously said 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.

In other business, commissioners: