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A New Dogma: Council Approves Revised City Animal Ordinance

Northwest Arkansas Times

April 18, 2007, Fayetteville, AR - Six months from now, about mid-November, Fayetteville’s revised animal ordinance will take effect. Between now and then, animal services staff will let people know what the new ordinances include, said Jill Hatfield, animal services director.

Among other changes, that means dogs shouldn’t be chained and fees will jump to $ 75 for unneutered and unspayed cats and dogs. “Getting animals spayed and neutered, that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Ward 1 Alderman Brenda Thiel said.

The Fayetteville City Council approved the changes to the city laws about animals. The vote was 7-1. Only Ward 3 Alderman Bobby Ferrell voted against the changes. Ferrell said he thought there were good intentions and hard work behind them and that some parts of it were good, but he could not support it. He cited the “huge amount of manpower” that would be needed to enforce the ordinance.

Changes made at Tuesday’s meeting were to clarify the differences between a kennel and a pet shop, to better define the word “hobbyist” and to exclude some animals from getting neutered for medical reasons.

Delphard Taylor of Fayetteville was the first to say the city has a problem with stray animals. “They’re everywhere, ” he said.

Later in the meeting, both Hatfield and Mayor Dan Coody made similar statements. “We do have a problem with stray dogs and cats; we are trying to work on that,” said Hatfield. She said that problem is why the ordinance was brought to the council.

Hatfield said there are not enough animal control officers to patrol neighborhoods for strays, so they have to respond to complaints. When officers get to the area five to 20 minutes later, the animal is often gone, she said. “We do need help from the community and we do need this ordinance,” she said.

But Taylor said he had heard those excuses before. “What good is a city ordinance when you won’t or don’t enforce it ? ” he asked. “ If I keep my dog in the backyard where it belongs and my neighbor does the same thing, what difference does it make because they’re never going to get together.”

Coody answered that Taylor’s example was “a big if.”

Requiring at least a 10-foot by 10-foot pen instead of allowing chains was another issue raised Tuesday. Taylor argued that if an owner neglects a dog on a chain, he or she would also neglect a dog in a pen. “What makes you think for a second that dog is going to be any better off in a pen than on a chain?” he asked.

Other speakers, such as Eva Madison, a board member of the Humane Society of the Ozarks, said that even a 10-foot by 10-foot pen “is far better than chaining” because dogs routinely tangle the chains. At least in a pen the animal should have access to food, water and the dog house, she said.

One option under the new ordinance is a trolley system rather than a chain. An owner is supposed to be present when the dog is on the trolley.

Hatfield said the ordinance’s creators tried to make the law “as humane as we can and still make everyone happy — those people who love animals and want to be responsible owners and those people who don’t want strays and want them out of sight.”

The intent of the revisions was to take care of dog problems and make pet owners more responsible — not keep people from having pets, said Thiel. She agreed with opponents that the city needs to do a better job and improve the rate of having animals licensed.

Although Ward 4 Alderman Lioneld Jordan voted for the ordinance, he set out a warning.“If I don’t see an improvement, I will bring this back to the council myself,” he declared.