City wants help with new animal control rules

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Folks fretting about homeless animals in Columbia and others eager to help draft a new ordinance addressing overpopulation of unwanted pets will have a chance to do so at a public hearing Wednesday.

Residents are invited to attend a 6 p.m. public hearing in the City Council chambers on the fourth floor of the Daniel Boone City Building, located at 701 E. Broadway.

The Columbia/Boone County Board of Health is considering a new ordinance, member Nathan Voris said, because of recent financial and logistical difficulties faced by the Central Missouri Humane Society and related organizations.

According to Columbia/Boone County Environmental Health Manager Gerald Worley, who oversees animal control throughout the county, a city regulation charging residents three times as much to license animals that have not been spayed or neutered is the only ordinance that helps control the population of unwanted pets.

"The ultimate goal is to help reduce the number of unwanted animals that have to be destroyed," Voris said. "Right now, the way things are, for a variety of reasons, there are more and more animals that fit into that unwanted animal category, and we need to figure out a way to stem the tide."

"When you look at the shelters and you look at the animal control officers, both financially and with manpower, they're stretched to the max, they're working as hard as they can," Voris said. "We really need to work together to find a solution to this problem."

Voris said the public hearing will be held before the ordinance is written to "gather some public thought before there's anything put on paper." The board thought it was important to start with a public hearing, rather then present citizens with a prefabricated rule, Voris said.

"We can easily pick and choose different cities to model an ordinance after," Voris said, citing examples such as Austin, Texas. "That would be easy, but I don't know if that's the best way to do things."

"The public hearing is the very first step in the process," health department spokeswoman Geni Alexander said. "People are being asked to come and share their thoughts, those thoughts will be recorded and then the ordinance will be drafted."

"We hope that any stakeholder in the community that deals with overpopulation of pets will attend," Alexander said.

In this case, stakeholders include volunteers and administrators at pounds, shelters and humane societies as well as any interested members of the public, Voris said.

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Nathan Voris, DVM April 22, 2009 | 11:33 a.m.

Thank you Andrew and the Missourian for a very accurate and informative article concerning tonight's public hearing. I hope to see a big crowd ready to share their thoughts!

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 22, 2009 | 1:07 p.m.

("According to Columbia/Boone County Environmental Health Manager Gerald Worley,...a city regulation charging residents three times as much to license animals that have not been spayed or neutered is the only ordinance that helps control the population of unwanted pets...") No it won't.
A city ordinance which mandates that residents are only allowed to purchase sterilized dogs and cats would put the responsibility on the seller and place fines on both parties if found in violation of this ordinance. An ordinance which would require ALL Columbia/Boone County residents to license their pets would generate additional revenue. If this revenue was used for free spaying and neutering of existing pets, for those of lower incomes, would help with the reproduction rates. Increased license fees will mean less people buying a license. Getting Boone County residents to be part of the Columbia/Boone County Environmental Health System and mandating license compliance would generate more revenue for education and sterilization programs. Why should Columbia residents be the only ones responsible for dog and cat licensing? All Boone County residents should be in on this.

Animals Tags & Licenses: Boone County

The Columbia ordinance requires that cats and dogs over the age of three (3) months must be licensed. Dogs are licensed for periods up to three (3) years. Cats are normally licensed for one (1) year. The Boone County ordinance does not require licenses...

(Report Comment)
Nathan Voris, DVM April 22, 2009 | 1:44 p.m.

Thanks for the comment, Ray! I hope you can come to the public hearing tonight and share your thoughts with the group.

Under the current ordinance, the fee structure of the license system IS the only provision that encourages sterilization of pets-this is what Mr. Whorley was referring to in the article. Currently, intact animals are charged three times the license fee sterilized animals are charged. You have cited a page of the city website that verifies his statement concerning the license fee.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 22, 2009 | 3:00 p.m.

When Is the Best Time to Spay or Neuter My Dog?
It is generally considered safe for puppies as young as eight weeks of age to be spayed or neutered. In animal shelters, surgery is often performed at this age so that puppies can be sterilized prior to adoption. In an effort to avoid the start of urine marking in male dogs and eliminate the chance of pregnancy, it’s advisable to schedule the surgery before your dog reaches six months of age. Check with your veterinarian about the best time to spay or neuter your pet.

(Source and more)

The license fee for each domestic cat or dog between the ages of three (3) months and 12 months and for each neutered domestic cat or dog of any age kept, harbored or owned within the City is $5.00 for any period of time not to exceed one year; and $10.00 for any period greater than one year, but not exceeding two (2) years; and $15.00 for any period greater than two (2) years but not exceeding three (3) years.

The license fee for each domestic cat or dog over the age of 12 months kept, harbored or owned within the city is $15.00 for any period of time not to exceed one year; $30.00 for any period greater than one year, but not exceeding two (2) years; and $45.00 for any period greater than two (2) years but not exceeding three (3) years.
Source and more)

(Report Comment)
Nathan Voris, DVM April 22, 2009 | 3:23 p.m.

Thanks Ray! Here is a link with the full verbiage behind the summary you cite:

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 22, 2009 | 4:43 p.m.

Hopefully,in the future, there will be more alternatives in handling animal population control...
"Birth control pills for Animals being Developed"
The compound can be mixed with animal feed and must be eaten daily during the critical time. It may also be encapsulated to decrease the frequency it has to be consumed, Kraemer says....if successful, it could be used on a wide variety of animals, including dogs and cats, he explains.
For now, I would advocate for our public schools to include "Civics" in their curriculum which would include not only what it means to be a good neighbor, but also the responsibilities and accountabilities of being a good pet owner.
Also, more Public Service Announcements concerning the animal population problem need to occur.
While it is vital to have spaying and neutering programs, those who do not access these services need to keep their domestic pets in the home, on a hand leash and away from loose animals.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 22, 2009 | 10:58 p.m.

I was there at 6pm and became quickly disappointed by the dynamics of the meeting. The audience was full of at least 30 pet owners and the raised platform of "suits" was not, in my opinion, conducive to sharing thoughts. The 3 minute rule for individuals and 5 minutes for organizations, seemed to go out the window, as CMHS' director did not hold back from being the first to speak and started her presentation with an off topic discussion of tethering. The CMHS presentation then went into advocacy for mandatory sterilization, followed by questions from the panel on conditions at the Shelter. I left at 6:20 as I could not tolerate to hear Ms. Forister's "sugar-coated" rendition of the kennels at Big Bear.
If Ms. Forister has so much to say to the Board of Health, I would think that the city would grant her an appointment. I hope the meeting was productive and meaningful for the other attendees.
While I personally agree with the ASPCA's anti-tethering position, I was trying to follow the information from the newspaper article.
Anyway, with regards to tethering:
Are There Laws that Address Tethering?
Yes, there are. Anti-tethering laws/tethering regulations may be passed on the state or local level, and as awareness of the dangers of tethering has grown, more and more jurisdictions have done so. While some bills seek to ban tethering outright, these typically have a hard time gaining enough support to pass. More moderate tethering laws usually do one or more of the following:
Prohibit tethering puppies/dogs younger than six months old
Prohibit tethering a dog who has not been spayed or neutered (unaltered dogs are even more likely to attack from a tether than altered ones)
Prohibit using a tether weighing more than the animal reasonably can bear
Prohibit tethering a dog outside overnight
Restrict the length of time that an animal may be tethered
Are Anti-Tethering Laws Effective in Reducing Dog Bites or Improving Public Safety in Other Ways?
Yes—tethering is a public safety issue as well as an animal welfare issue. Coupled with proper enforcement of animal cruelty and animal fighting laws, laws that prohibit tethering or chaining have been shown to reduce dog fighting and cruelty complaints. For example, Lawrence, KS, has found that its anti-tethering law has worked well to decrease dog fighting because dog fighters usually tether their dogs. Lawrence allows dogs to be tethered without supervision for only one hour.
--In this, Ms. Forister, the ASPCA and I agree.
With regards to advocating for owners to have mandatory sterilization for their pets, as presented by Ms. Forister, I prefer to side with the ASPCA's approach.
I left early. Had to walk the dog, amongst other things...

(Report Comment)
Nathan Voris, DVM April 23, 2009 | 8:44 a.m.

Sorry you had to leave early, Ray. I think had you been able to stay for the remaining 2 hours of discussion, your opinion might have been different concerning the value of the event.

As a member of the Board of Health, I would like to personally thank everyone that attended the meeting last night. Your interest in this topic and your willingness to share through public comment is highly appreciated. For those that couldn't attend, the hearing was largely composed of representatives of CMHS, Columbia Second Chance, Columbia Missouri Kennel Club and the Show-Me Kennel Club. Additionally, there were two veterinarians that voiced comments. Again, Thank You!

For anyone not able to attend but would still like to leave public comment, the health department has created a blog. The Board of Health will be extending public comment for a couple of weeks. I would encourage individual citizens of the city and the county to make their thoughts known.


(Report Comment)

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