Pet peeves

City aims to update animal ordinance

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Mickey Ford's Australian shepherd border collie mix, Roo, is getting on in years but she wouldn't dream of burying him in the back yard.

"He's been one of the biggest parts of my life," she said. "I don't want him stuck in the ground for someone to find later."

Craig city policy mirrors Ford's rationale. For the past few decades it's been against the law for city residents to bury pets inside the city limits.

However it's unclear how many people knew such an ordinance existed. In an effort to update policies and maintain parity for fines, the Craig Police Department has proposed some new animal ordinances to be considered by Craig City Council.

One ordinance that may pose an impact on pets and their owners is a proposal that pets must be spayed and neutered before they are adopted.

Amy Andrews, an employee of McCandless Animal Hospital said the ordinance might help cultivate more responsible pet owners.

"If they are a responsible pet owner to begin with, they're going to spay and neuter anyways," she said. "You have to start somewhere."

Andrews said that in some states, whole counties require that all pets are spayed or neutered. Also, requiring that pets be spayed and neutered may be sending them to better quality homes. It also eventually may relieve costs on the city and county for having to house and keep abandoned pets.

Other proposed changes include increases in fines for pet owners who break the law, police Capt. Jerry DeLong. Minimal fees of $15 to $20 for pet infractions have been in place since 1978. Those costs don't reflect the true cost of animal control, he said.

"We found that the penalty was low compared to other agencies," he said. "It was very frustrating for animal control."

Conviction for first offenses such as animals at large and leaving an animal in an enclosed vehicle is $50, and at least $100 for a subsequent offense that involves a court appearance. A conviction for heftier offenses of animal bites and vicious animals will cost $75 for the first offense of at least $150 for subsequent offenses that require a court appearance.

Ford, the city's part-time animal control officer, questioned whether more animals would be abandoned, according to a proposal that would prohibit people from selling or giving away pets in public places. She questioned whether that would be applicable on Swap Shop, a radio program in which residents regularly try to sell or give away pets.

"It could be a vicious cycle," she said. "Having a pet is like having a baby; you can't just give it away."

Another proposal would require drivers to try to locate a pet's owner if a pet is accidentally hit or killed, DeLong said.

"People should have the responsibility for finding the owner," he said. "If they can't, they can call us and we'll try to find them."

City Council has yet to vote on these proposals.

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