FORT SMITH — Residents would be required to have their dogs and cats spayed or neutered under a proposed revision to the city’s animal ordinance that city managers will consider at their Tuesday meeting.
Trustees heard the proposed changes and provided feedback during a study session last week.
A memo to City Administrator Carl Geffken from Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman summarized the revisions, including the removal of references to the Animal Services Advisory Board, as the board opted to review the elements itself. related to animals. It also removes references to annual pet licenses.
Dingman explained at a trustees’ meeting in November that the pet license was passed a few years ago but hasn’t been implemented or enforced, so it’s being removed from the proposal.
The proposal states that a stray animal entrusted to a shelter will not be released from the shelter or impoundment facility until it has been microchipped and neutered or neutered. It also specifies that animals must be vaccinated before being released and that the owner must present proof of vaccination in order to claim the animal. If the owner cannot provide proof, the establishment will vaccinate the animal before its release, and the owner will pay for it and the neutering.
The city is working on a voucher system to help pay for animals to be neutered on a first-come, first-served basis. The number of vouchers that will be available is uncertain at this time.
Chief Executive Christina Catsavis said she thinks microchipping might be a financial burden for some people and a collar with an ID tag should suffice.
The proposal also removes the ban on animals with “vicious” behavior in the city and instead sets certain parameters for such animals, such as requiring those wishing to keep an aggressive animal in the city to pay a license fee. annual specials of $500 per year, plus requiring the animal to be spayed or neutered.
The proposal also increases breeder license fees for dogs and cats from $500 to $1,000 per year per animal in addition to a business license. Indeed, purebred puppies can often sell for $2,500 or more, which means a breeder can make upwards of $10,000 for a litter, Geffken said.
The proposal prohibits feeding or housing wild and stray animals, or leaving pet food unattended. Catsavis said Fort Smith is full of kind people with good hearts who want to feed stray animals, and she doesn’t feel right about banning that.
Geffken said leaving food out can attract other animals that carry diseases that are harmful to pets and children.
“I love that there are places where raccoons, foxes and deer can live and not be affected by human activity, but feeding, leaving food unattended. , is kind of a dangerous thing,” Ward 3 manager Lavon Morton said. “And I think that’s kind of a compromise with what [Ding-man’s] Done here. But I share your concern. I want people to be able to feed stray dogs, stray cats and pets without worrying about a fine.
The proposal reduces the number of adult dogs a person can keep in a home without being considered a kennel from seven to four, as recommended by the police department. Kennels can be operated when properly zoned with a $150 per year license in addition to a business license. There is an exception for the temporary accommodation of foster animals on behalf of a shelter or for rehousing purposes.
Morton asked how the city would enforce this if a residence already had seven dogs. Ding-man said he didn’t know, but the city had to draw a line somewhere.
“And I agree,” Morton said. “I just don’t want to tell people ‘pick three dogs to get rid of’, so I think we need to think about it. Seven is too many.
Geffken said there was grandfathering potential for these owners.
General manager Neal Martin wondered how most of the proposal will be implemented.
“Enforceability is going to be an issue, and our ability to enforce the law is still going to be an issue for a while, but it won’t be better if we don’t do something like that,” Dingman said.
Martin said he doesn’t want to fine people before they face jail time or cause irreparable harm to people who can’t afford multiple fines. The community definitely needs an animal ordinance, he said.
Geffken said the city is aware of this and the ordinance can be changed if necessary.
Chief executive Kevin Settle called for the order to include an annual review by directors.
Ward 2 manager Andre Good said he has been on the board since 2008 and has been talking about pets ever since. He said the city has been lenient in not having the proper ordinances in place, and while administrators don’t like everything on offer, they are good policies to bring about change.
The city is full of people who care about animals, but there’s also a “large segment” of the community who are irresponsible pet owners, Good said.
Monica Brich can be reached by email at [email protected]