Animal control ordinance gets first reading

Pet owners may soon have a whole new set of regulations to observe in Webster City. The City Council approved the first reading of a new ordinance that deals with the number and type of animals local residents can have within the city limits and addresses what could be considered a nuisance.

Mayor Doug Getter said the updated ordinance plan came about after the previous City Council asked the city staff to look at developing an animal protection and control ordinance. City Manager Ed Sadler said the city – typically the Police Department – receives numerous complaints from local residents concerning a variety of problems ranging from barking dogs to the feeding of deer to someone raising chickens in their back yard.

“Usually, these occur when people are more likely to be outside with their pets or have their windows open,” he said. However, due to the extreme cold this winter, Sadler said the city had received many calls about animals left outside in bitterly cold temperatures.

“A few years ago, the City Council made great strides in dealing with the feeding of wild animals but subsequently asked the staff to more thoroughly address domestic animals,” Sadler said. He added that the proposal placed before the council Monday night was compiled from the existing ordinance in Webster City, ordinances from other communities as well as from state law.

“We understand that with this proposed ordinance, there will be a number of area residents with opinions on both sides of the matter,” said Getter. “We would encourage them to share their perspectives and opinions. This will go through three readings by the council and could be amended at each reading if necessary.”

The proposed ordinance identifies prohibited animals – including lions, cougars, wolves, crocodiles, all venomous or constricting snakes and venomous spiders. However, Sadler said those who own of those animals on or before May 1, can continue to keep the animal but are not permitted to replace the animal upon its death, if it is sold, transferred or otherwise disposed of. Should the ordinance be adopted, owners of these pets will have until July 1 to register their animal with the Police Department to be allowed to keep them.

Owners of cats and dogs would also be restricted to how many could be kept on the property. A maximum of four mature dogs or four mature cats could be kept, or a mix of no more than six mature animals would be allowed for one household. Again, Sadler said those who own more animals than the proposed limits as of July 1 would be “grandfathered-in” and allowed to keep those animals. But, the pet owners could not replace any animals above the maximum number if the pets die, is sold or transferred.

Litters of kittens or puppies would not be considered mature and subject to the ordinance until they reached six months of age.

Owners of dogs and cats would be responsible for obtaining a rabies vaccination for each pet between the ages of four and six months and then at intervals specified by the vaccine manufacturer. Sadler said that horses were originally included in that portion of the ordinance, but after speaking with a local veterinarian, said that horses would likely be excluded from the rabies vaccination requirement. Dogs and cats would also be required to wear a collar or harness with the rabies tag attached.

As in the previous animal control ordinance, animals are not allowed to run at larger within the city limits. The proposed ordinance also addresses excessive barking, baying or howling behaviors which disturb the peace and quiet of the vicinity.

City Attorney Gary Groves reminded the council that no breeds of dogs would be identified as “vicious.” He said that behavior and temperament of the dog rather than breed would be what determines whether a dog is a danger to the public.

Councilman Logan Welch said he was excited about looking at the ordinance.

“What we had before definitely needs to be updated. But what I want to let the public know is that after the third reading of this, it becomes our new animal ordinance,” he said. “I urge anyone with input or feed back about this to give it now.”

Sadler said the complete proposed ordinance can be found on the city’s website, www.webstercity.com. Click on the council agenda for March 3 and then click on item 14 to see the memos and ordinance information.

Other business

In other business:

Zack Chizek was appointed assistant city attorney through Dec. 31, 2014.

Heather Kierzek was appointed to the Civil Service Commission for an unexpired term ending April 2016.

Jerry Kloberdanz was appointed as Webster City’s representative to the Hamilton County Solid Waste Commission. John Hawkins will be the alternate.

The council approved an economic incentive package for Stein Heating and Cooling Inc. The firm is in the process of buying a property in Webster City for business expansion and plans to move six jobs to the community and create four more positions. The conditional forgivable loan not to exceed $50,000 would be presented in the stages as the conditions of the contract are met. The contract would also provide the city with on-going financial information from the business as well as permit the city to conduct periodic reviews for compliance to with the contract.