“We are struggling to enforce this ordinance," Camdenton Mayor John McNabb said on Tuesday night.
The Camdenton Board of Aldermen took the first step in relaxing portions of its potentially dangerous dog ordinance while increasing fees for registering pets after approval of the first reading of both ordinances on Tuesday night.
In 2014, the board faced several criticisms for a pit bull and pit bull-type ban that was eventually rescinded in February 2015 and replaced with an ordinance identifying potentially dangerous breeds by a variety of characteristics with a strict set of owner responsibilities as well as additional neighborhood safeguards.
Since then, city officials have described the situation as a game of “cat-and-mouse” attempting to get citizens to follow the new ordinance, which was also legally challenged by a private citizen whose dog was classified as potentially dangerous and whose subsequent appeal was denied by the city.
The proposed changes, according to staff documents, strike several of the additional safeguards and regulations required for housing a potentially dangerous dog within city limits.
“We are struggling to enforce this ordinance and after lengthy discussion — what we have to present this evening — the changes in this ordinance primarily came from our police chief and city attorney, but all staff involved was in agreement,” Mayor John McNabb said. “This is something we felt might streamline the project and make it easier for us to enforce the ordinances that we have dealing with potentially dangerous dogs.”
Police Chief Laura Wright echoed the words of the mayor and added that animal shelters in the area were already overfilled.
“We’re running into a lot of roadblocks and confusion in some of the ways things were interpreted,” she said. “This will clarify the process.”
City Attorney Phil Morgan said in reviewing the ordinance, there were certain parts that encouraged “resistance” among citizens to follow the law and the revised ordinance should be fairly straightforward.
Alderwoman Sandy Osborn, the lone vote against the ordinance, found the situation ironic and brought up the City of Springfield, who has been dealing with similar issues over the years.
“I find it sort of ironic that we went to them for guidance to toughen this ordinance and they’re backpedaling and going back to a tough ordinance,” she said.
Sections to be removed from the ordinance follow:
1. “No other dogs may be kept at a residence with the one pit bull or potentially dangerous dog.”
2. “Single family and landlord notice. A potentially dangerous dog shall only be allowed in single family dwellings as defined in Chapter 400 herein. In the event a person wishes to possess a potentially dangerous dog and they are not the owner of the residence, they shall provide proof that they have provided notice to their landlord or the owner of the residence that they will possess a potentially dangerous dog at the residence.”
3. “Insurance. An owner of a potentially dangerous dog shall provide proof to the City on an annual basis of insurance coverage in an amount of not less than $200,000. Any such insurance provided may not contain an exclusion which would deny coverage for such dogs.”
4. “Window sticker or sign. A window sticker or sign must be posted on the owner’s property, visible from the street to indicate that a potentially dangerous dog resides on the property. Such sign must be clearly visible from the street or sidewalk if possible.”
5. “Must be restrained by means of a secure leash held by a person over the age of 16 (strike 18) who has the ability to control the dog.”
Aldermen also approved the first reading of an ordinance to increase pet licensing fees projected to create an additional $1,390 in revenue.
The licensing ordinance states that a pet owner residing within city limits shall procure a license from the city for all dogs and cats over the age of six months of age that is effective from Jan.1 to Dec. 31 of each year.
Increases apply to each un-neutered or un-spayed dog or cat and will change from $10 to $25. Each neutered or spayed dog or cat will now be $10 instead of $5. Permit and registration fees for each potentially dangerous dog were not proposed to be increased from $50.
“The fact that these fees have not changed for a long period of time,” McNabb said, was paramount to the proposal. “What we’re proposing might promote a little more responsible pet ownership by encouraging people to have their pets spayed and neutered.”
Wright stated that she believed the fees have never been increased since they were first implemented and felt the increases were still reasonable.
Osborn said she’d rather see the City reward rather than punish people and wondered if a discount to citizens who did spay or neuter their pets could be possible. Despite her reservations, she did vote for approval of the first reading of this ordinance.
“I’m a big fan of rewarding people for doing what’s right and not punishing everybody for doing what’s wrong,” she said.
Aldermen plan to take up the second and final reading of both ordinances at the next meeting on Oct. 17, 2017.