WC Council takes new pass at animal ordinance

A revised draft of an animal protection and control ordinance will be discussed at a work session of the City Council of Webster City on Tuesday.

The meeting, which is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. with City Hall as the tentative location, will give the public a chance to voice their opinions about the revised ordinance, Webster City Mayor Doug Getter said.

The new draft contains several changes including the removal of language which would limit the number of pets that could be kept in a single dwelling. Through public discussion at a previously held work session, Getter said the City Council decided that there was nothing substantive behind the specific numbers which were proposed.

“They key element, we determined, boiled down to making certain that the pets were well cared for and were not creating a nuisance,” Getter said. “It didn’t make any difference whether you had one pet or if you had 10. There really wasn’t any need for a numeric restriction.”

A new section addresses citation fines for those who violate the ordinance. The first citation for those accused of violating a provision in the ordinance is $50. A second violation within a 36-month period will increase the citation cost to $100. A third in that timeframe will cost $150. Getter said the new ordinance language gives local police officers a way to issue citations, if necessary, on the scene of a complaint.

“Our whole purpose is to bring about compliance so we don’t have neighbors subjected to something that disturbs their peace and quiet,” Getter said.

As laid out in the new draft, the citation costs in the ordinance don’t prohibit the city from issuing municipal infractions. Getter said the infraction carries a $750 cost and could be issued to those who repeatedly violate the ordinance.

“At that point in time, having the ability to issue a municipal infraction hopefully will capture the attention of the pet owner,” Getter said. “Our hope is that we don’t get to that point, but on the flip side, if we do have a chronic abuser, we want to be able to resolve it.”

A couple sections in the new draft have been changed to simply adopt state code language. That includes prohibited animals and pet awards. By adopting language from the Code of Iowa, Assistant City Attorney Zach Chizek said the city would be able to handle infractions at a local level rather than a state level. Then, money from citation fines would also stay within the city.

“By referencing it, we’re borrowing their language essentially. But, we’re also allow us the opportunity, if it’s so egregious, we can bring it under state charges,” Chizek said.

Other sections were changed to address public concerns. The new draft of the ordinance now bans the feeding of “any stray or feral animal” which doesn’t apply to squirrels or wild birds. Getter said the earlier draft which was voted down during its second reading at a City Council meeting was worded in a way which would ban anyone from feeding any pet that wasn’t their own. That would have included those taking care of pets while their owners were on vacation. Language has also been added which allows for the use of microchips, in addition to tags on collars or harnesses, to log the rabies vaccination information of a dog or cat.

The new draft of the ordinance is available for the public to view on the city’s website.