Supervisors backtrack on dog limit

2-1 vote changes law back to four canines per residence

KINGMAN - Animal lovers can once again have four dogs in Mohave County.

On Monday, the Board of Supervisors changed its decision on how many dogs Mohave County residents can keep from two to four by a 2-1 vote, with Board Chairman Buster Johnson opposed.

On Oct. 4, the Board approved revisions to the county's Animal Control, Planning and Zoning and Environmental Health ordinances involving kennels. One of the revisions included limiting the number of animals a resident could have on an acre or less of property to two dogs and four cats. The previous limit had been four dogs and four cats.

A number of pet owners, rescue organizations and dog lovers expressed their disapproval of the change in letters to the Board and to local newspapers, and District II Supervisor Tom Sockwell brought the issue back to the Board for reconsideration.

A handful of pet owners expressed their concerns about the limit at the meeting.

Pets are like children to some people, said resident Jeffery Alper. He had three dogs and wouldn't know which dog to get rid of if the two-dog limit was upheld.

"I understand that because of economic reasons or because of illness that there are people that don't treat their animals well," Alper said, adding there are already laws in place to take care of those people. The county didn't need new laws.

"People should be able to be with the people and animals they love," he said.

Johnson pointed out that the changes to the ordinance would not affect people currently living in Mohave County with more than two dogs on less than an acre of property. The revisions were not retroactive, he said.

Golden Valley resident Jim Kanelos said he believed that part of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was being able to own as many dogs as a person wished.

"There are enough other laws and ordinances in place. You just need to enforce them," he said.

"The number of pets shouldn't be limited," said Kingman resident Tonya Morgan. Placing a limit on the number of animals a person can have won't change people who already abuse or neglect their animals, she said. A person who has only one dog can be just as abusive as someone who has four dogs that they don't take care of. And a person who has four or more dogs can be just as loving as a person who only has two, she said.

The Board also needed to take into account the size of an animal, Morgan said. Having a neighbor with two large dogs is very different than one with four small dogs, she said.

Western Arizona Humane Society CEO Victoria Cowper also spoke out in favor of changing the dog limit.

"Our vision is that there would be no need for ordinances such as this because we would all be responsible pet owners, but we realize that's not the case," she said. The county needed something in place to compliment the responsible pet owners and take care of the irresponsible pet owners, Cowper said.

"A unanimous vote on this would send a positive message about animal welfare to residents," she told the Board.

The county has had the same number of allowable pets for years and it still has a high euthanasia rate, said Johnson. "There's nothing being changed with this (approval of the four-dog limit.) I can't see a different outcome because people can have more dogs," he said.

"The number of animals is not the issue on the euthanasia rate, in my opinion," Cowper said. Lake Havasu City, where the WAHS is based, does not have a limit on the number of dogs a person can keep. However, the city has other methods of enforcement when it comes to animal welfare, she said. It also has a spay and neuter program.

Johnson said he had only one call in favor of having more than two dogs in his district.

"We need to take a step. We have been putting all these animals to sleep," he said. "I have no problem if we want to charge people a fee to have more than two animals, but we have to have some way of controlling this."

Sockwell said he had a number of calls disagreeing with the two-dog limit.