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City to update animal ordinance to better deal with nuisance pets and negligent pet owners


Posted 3/29/16 (Tue)

By Kevin Killough
Tioga has taken a step toward updating its animal ordinance, which increases fines and changes how police will handle complaints.
At the regular commission meeting held last week, city commission voted to approve the writing of a resolution based on updated proposals developed by Police Administrator Jeff Spivey. 
Frosty pups
Currently, the city’s animal ordinance contains no language regarding animals tied up in freezing weather. This meant officers did not have means to respond when anyone complained after seeing an animal outside in extreme weather.
Spivey proposed a change to the ordinance that contains minimum requirements and gives the responding officer leeway in judging the situation. The problem with specific requirements is safe temperatures vary from breed to breed.
The proposed updates also include language regarding nuisance animals. The changes do not alter definitions of a nuisance pet, but adjust how the incidents are handled.  
Previously, people were reluctant to fill out a complaint out of fear of antagonizing neighbors. 
Now the calls can be made anonymously and the officer can respond to the situation “on view.” This means the officer can go to the location and respond to the complaint based only on his or her own observation. 
“Then we don’t have to always put a person at risk” of filing a report with the police, Spivey said. 
This is true of noise complaints, animals chasing people or acting aggressively, and owners who let their pets do their business on other people’s property. 
The proposal increases fines to $50 for the first offense and $100 for the second. Spivey said the increase is a measure to reimburse the city for its expense in dealing with owners whose pets cause problems. 
“We need to have people look after their own animals. We’re a small community. It is very expensive for us to do that,” Spivey said. 
The new ordinance would give officers more options when impounding pets. Previously, the ordinance required police to put the animal to death after a waiting period.
“We never had to destroy an animal, except one. In that case, it was pretty vicious and we had no choice in the matter,” Spivey said.
The new language will give the police the option of putting the pet up for adoption.
The proposal also adds a cost of $15 per day on impounded animals. The law currently has no such fees for the owner, and all costs of caring for impounded animals fall on the city. 
Spivey said it’s about what other towns charge.
“This is not to make a profit,” he said.
The new ordinance, if passed, will also charge owners for any veterinarian care while the animal is in the city’s possession. Police would then be able to care for sick or injured animals without concerns over the costs to the city.
Future steps
If passed, the intent of the updates to the ordinance is to give police more tools to hold negligent pet owners accountable.
“If you live in the country, you can let your dogs run all over. You can’t do that if you live in the city. And if people won’t take care of their pets, we will,” said Police Commissioner Ronda Davidson. 
The commission voted to approve the writing of a resolution, which means they have given the city attorney, Ben Johnson, permission to draft a new ordinance based on Spivey’s proposed changes. 
The resolution must then go through two public readings before it’s officially adopted. 

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