Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TOP STORY >> Animal ordinance approved in Cabot

Leader staff writer

After more than a year of trying, Cabot finally has a new animal-control ordinance.

The ordinance, which limits the number of dogs and cats per household to four in any combination, was approved unanimously Monday night by the seven council members present. The vote for the emergency clause, which makes the law effective immediately instead of in 30 days, was 6-1.

Aldermen made four changes in the draft of the ordinance before they voted to approve it. The draft limited the number of dogs and cats to eight. Alderman Ann Gillham asked for the reduction in number and two other changes. She asked that the age before pets are counted to be extended from 12 weeks to 16 weeks and prospective foster homes for unwanted pets exclude rental houses.

Alderman Ed Long asked for the emergency clause to be included. Long is chairman of the committee that has dealt with proposed changes to animal-control laws in Cabot. A year of working on the ordinance is long enough, he said.

In response to questions from other council members, Long said leaving the emergency clause off would change nothing. The previous ordinance limited the number of dogs per household to four and there was no limit on cats.

Residents with more than four dogs now are already in violation of city law, he said. And since there was no law limiting cats, residents would be allowed to keep the ones they have now even if their total number of dogs and cats is more than four.

However, grandfathering applies only to those animals in homes as pets now. If they die, they can’t be replaced if replacing them makes the number of dogs and cats exceed four.

Alderman Eddie Cook said he had received more phone calls about the new animal control ordinance than any other issue he has dealt with on the council, at least 50 calls, he said.

Gillham said she had received as many and had taken harsh criticism over the possibility of allowing eight animals per household.

In addition to limiting the number of dogs and cats to four per household, the ordinance bans selling or giving away animals in parking lots, parks, flea markets or any other outside area.

The ban does not apply to humane societies, animal control agencies or nonprofit agencies sponsoring pet adoptions that have obtained approval from the head of Cabot Animal Control.

The ordinance includes a $30 fee for relinquishing unwanted pets.

The fee is reduced to $15 for residents taking care of strays who provide a current newspaper clipping to show they have tried to find the owner.

The new ordinance continues the ban on pit bulls and says it is unlawful to harbor a public nuisance animal which includes the following:

Any animal repeatedly found running at large.

Any dog or cat unleashed in a public park or recreation area.

Any dog or cat that damages, soils, defiles or defecates on any property other than its owner’s.

Any animal that fouls the air with offensive odors.

Any animal that attacks without provocation anyone in a public right-of-way.

Any animal in heat that is not confined to prevent the attraction of other animals.

Any animal that chases cars.

Any feral cat colony that is not vaccinated and sterilized.

Barking dogs that disturb the neighbors.