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Sat, Dec. 07

Animal groups sound off on proposed ordinance

KINGMAN - Nearly two dozen pet owners, breeders and sanctuary managers spoke before a special workshop of the Mohave County Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday morning to address concerns that they had over-proposed changes to the county ordinance on animal care and kennels.

The new ordinance, which is scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 4, features a number of new definitions and suggested requirements for residential and commercial kennels, with limits on the number of animals allowed for differing acreages, expanded housing requirements for sick or quarantined animals, new guidelines for flooring and wall materials and a daily 15-minute minimum requirement for feeding, watering and sanitizing each animal's living space, among others.

Audience comments were varied, though several themes prevailed, particularly the opinion expressed by many that placing a limit on the number of animals allowed at a residence without a permit was arbitrary and unnecessary. The new ordinance as written would require any residence with more than four dogs to apply for the proper kennel permits, which would then be renewed annually and would require an additional inspection from the county Environmental Health Division for non-residential kennels.

But more than a few speakers argued that a person should be able to take care of as many animals as they want to, provided they are able to properly feed and care for them. District II Commissioner Kristal Gibson, who led much of the discussion on the county's side, said she could sympathize with such feelings, but noted that in many cases of animal abuse, the owner often believes that they are providing adequate levels of care even when they're not. She added that, in such events, Animal Control officers must have some legal foundation to work off of in order to ensure such abuse does not happen.

One speaker, Tai Nelson Barnes, agreed with the need for guidelines but stressed the importance of not lumping everyone into a single "kennel" definition, arguing that animal sanctuaries such as the Rescuing Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation have distinctly different functions than her family's breeding operation, which in turn differs substantially from those residents who keep large numbers of pets for companionship or for sporting activities.

Like many in attendance, Barnes stressed the need for a spay and neuter ordinance to cut down on animal overpopulation in the county, but Gibson said that that alone would not automatically fix all the county's animal issues.

"You need to give foundation for those who are already out there with animals, so that when there are complaints, the county can step out there and say, 'Here's my foundation to work from, these are concerns we need to look at,'" she said.

"Giving just a spay ordinance doesn't solve the current issues, and none of this is going to go away - it's going to be a long process, it's going to be years."

Representatives from the local sanctuaries also had a myriad of concerns regarding the ordinance. RUFFF founder Hillarie Allison agreed with Barnes that sanctuaries were not commercial and thus should not be subject to the same standards as commercial kennels. She added that many of the guidelines laid out in the ordinance seemed arbitrary and counterproductive to the sanctuary's functions. As an example, she pointed to the ordinance's 15-minute minimum requirement for feeding, watering and cleaning up after each individual animal.

"It has no basis in federal, state or local public regulation," she said. "Outdoor facilities where animals are group housed do not necessarily require 15 minutes of care per animal. This is arbitrary and is dependent on many factors, such as how the room is structured and the cleaning methodology."

Allison also took issue with the ordinance's requirement that kennels maintain at least one quarantine space for every 10 animals in the kennel, a requirement she claimed was wholly impractical.

"The Humane Society can't do it, and we can't do it. I would need nearly 30 quarantines, and they'd be empty, wasted space," she said. "We have an isolation area and we have four dog runs that are specifically for quarantine. That being said, in our case, if an animal is injured or ill, it doesn't stay there for long; it immediately goes to the veterinarian."

Allison sided with many of the other commenters that complaints to Animal Control were best handled on an individual basis rather than policed according to an arbitrary structure. She noted that some people were more than capable of taking care of a dozen pets easily while others couldn't be trusted with even one, and that, she said, made it difficult for her to accept the ordinance's exacting numerical standards for residential kennels.

"We could make the ordinance state that, as long as a private owner is caring for the pets and not causing a nuisance situation to their neighbors, there is no limit," she said. "It's been done in many areas. You have the option to do something like this with private homeowners that are caring for their pets."

Cherie Da Lynn of For the Luv of Paws expanded on Allison's comments regarding quarantine, noting that, despite housing a large number of animals, the shelter only takes in a few each day, and each can be safely quarantined individually without need of one quarantine kennel for every 10 animals. She also took issue with some of the material requirements listed in the ordinance, such as pea gravel for exterior flooring, which she argued was difficult to clean and would frequently be eaten by dogs.

She suggested that sand would be a better alternative, given that it was cooler and more comfortable to the animals, exhibited less odor, and was easier to clean up.

Showing photographs from the shelter, Da Lynn also questioned the ordinance's requirement of one food dish per cat, noting that, with each cattery containing between 20 and 40 cats, there would be no room left for the cats to maneuver along the ground. Da Lynn also argued against a requirement that kennels must remove animals from their living areas during cleaning.

"You wouldn't do that in your home," she said, adding that cats are easily shaken by changes in their environment, and that having to move them from their cattery to individual carriers every day would cause them undue stress.

"I just think this is micromanagement. Before you impose restrictions and rules and regulations on a sanctuary, you need to come out and look, and see how we work. Everything works really good right now."

Comments and suggestions from Tuesday's meeting will be added to the agenda packet for the Board of Supervisors' Oct. 4 hearing on whether to adopt the ordinance.

Additional comments or suggestions can be sent to the Clerk of the Board office, located at 700 W. Beale St., third floor.

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