City Council Votes Yes to Chickens, No to Chains

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A chicken run lines the outside patio of Commonwealth Coffee House & Bakery.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A chicken run lines the outside patio of Commonwealth Coffeehouse & Bakery.

City Council on Thursday approved several revisions to the City’s animal laws, including a complete ban on dog chaining, more stringent spay and neuter requirements, and an increase in the number of chickens citizens may own – “common sense” improvements, according to Animal Care Services (ACS) Director Heber Lefgren.

Additional changes to the Chapter 5 animal ordinance will apply to laws regarding animal impounding, dangerous dog designations, noise complaints, new rescue licenses, and language clarifications.

“Laws are intended to promote and protect a community’s quality of life,” Lefgren stated in a press release. “The improved ordinance does just that by considering the balance between animal care and control as well as pets and people.”

The new laws are effective immediately, but ACS will implement a six-month, bilingual outreach campaign to help pet owners adjust to the new ordinance.

ACS spent the last eight months collecting community input on the type of changes residents would like to see for their community and their pets. The department also conducted two comprehensive surveys to solicit feedback.

“As we talked with the community a lot of the recommendations that came out … are basic and common sense ways to keep our community safe and our pets cared for humanely,” Lefgren told the Rivard Report. 

Residents may now house up to eight chickens without applying for an excess animal permit. Fowl must be housed in a coop that is at least 24 sq. ft. in size. Residents within the city limits may own no more than one rooster.

Chickens eat feed in the backyard gardens of Outlaw Kitchens.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Chickens eat feed in the backyard gardens of Outlaw Kitchens.

The City is increasing its authority to spay and neuter animals or pets found roaming free of restraint, being sold without proper permits, or found in repeated violation of other ordinances. Dogs legally designated as dangerous must also be spayed and neutered at the owner’s expense under the new ordinance.

Some of the 10 new requirements for owners of dangerous dogs include attending a class on responsible pet ownership and agreeing not to transfer the dog to any other owner besides ACS, according to Lefgren. Owners who are unable or unwilling to comply with the new ownership requirements risk having their dog euthanized.

ACS has instated a complete ban on chains of any weight used for tethering dogs. Tethered pets must to have access to at least 150 sq. ft. of unobstructed space, shelter, food, water, and shade.

The City also increased its authority to impound pets. ACS officers may now impound animals sold by unauthorized vendors at flea markets or on roadsides.

Stray dogs have made a home near a park bench at Brackenridge Park. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Stray dogs have made a home near a park bench at Brackenridge Park.

These changes give ACS officers the tools they need to fully address issues they see in the community and enhance their enforcement of the ordinances, Lefgren said. Since officers will play a large role in enacting these changes, they will help inform community members of the changes as they are implemented in the immediate future.

“Our officers have been and will continue to be one of the main driving forces of communication and education,” Lefgren said. “Our officers are not just out there issuing citations. They’re out there educating people on what it means to be responsible owners [keeping] their pets as well as their neighbors and themselves safe.

“For the next six months, our officers will be using these changes as an educational opportunity to talk to the residents.”

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