ORDINANCE REWRITE DEALS BIG WIN FOR PETS, PET OWNERS AND ELECTED OFFICIALS

ORDINANCE REWRITE DEALS BIG WIN FOR PETS, PET OWNERS AND ELECTED OFFICIALS


By: Patti Strand  Date: 06/25/2006

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JUNE 25, 2006

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
PATTI STRAND NAIA@NAIAONLINE.ORG OR 503-761-1139

MONROE COUNTY, FLORIDA – HOME OF THE FLORIDA KEYS

ORDINANCE REWRITE DEALS BIG WIN FOR PETS, PET OWNERS AND ELECTED OFFICIALS

Animal control is a huge and thankless job for local governments. Elected officials are seldom animal policy experts, but when they take office they quickly learn about a host of animal problems in their communities ranging from dangerous dogs to neighborhood nuisances and animal abuse. When a crisis erupts, or neighborhood nuisances boil over, it’s not uncommon for agencies to react to complaints or headlines by adding ill-advised or even radical provisions to ordinances in the hope of solving problems. That is what happened in Monroe County, Florida on March 15, 2006 when officials there passed a new animal ordinance prepared by animal control, following which pet owners and animal professionals went ballistic.

In the face of pet-owner fury, it’s easy for county officials to dig in, leading to public cynicism about government and a willingness to disobey the law. But that didn’t happen in Monroe County Florida. When citizens complained in Monroe, a novel thing occurred: The county mayor and county commissions actually listened to their constituents’ concerns. And after listening, the mayor placed a moratorium on enactment of the ordinance until all could be heard at the next board of county commissioners (BOCC) meeting, giving their citizens the time to assemble and work on an alternative!

Susan Prince was one of the Key West residents who organized community pet owners and carried their concerns to the next BOCC meeting, where a 60 day moratorium was granted. From there the fledgling group (Help Encourage Animal Responsibility Today – HEART) rallied to develop an acceptable alternative. They understood it wasn’t enough to just say no, that there were real problems that needed to be addressed, and they began researching national organizations and model ordinances. Soon Susan and her co-workers discovered the National Animal Interest Alliance website and the NAIA Guide to Pet Friendly Animal Ordinances.

Commissioner Dixie Spehar scheduled a working meeting on June 1 for citizens to review the problem ordinance and HEART brought NAIA Legislative Chair, Laurella Desborough to Key West to join in the effort. By working together an alternate ordinance emerged with huge improvements: Among many changes, they replaced a $500 intact animal fee with a $35 fee; removed arbitrary restrictions on animal limits, as long as all local laws are obeyed; extended the length of time an identified shelter animal could be kept before euthanasia; and developed responsible standards for tethering as opposed to banning all forms of tethering.

When the alternate ordinance came before the Monroe County Commissioners on June 21, the vote was 5 to 0, with all the commissioners in favor! The alternate ordinance is not perfect, but the improvements were substantial, and what is more important is that it generated cooperation rather than polarization among county officials, animal owners, animal trainers, veterinarians, and members of the general public. The previous version was politically divisive and would have proven ineffective and totally unenforceable. County officials working with citizen pet lovers in Monroe have created the necessary environment now for solving animal control problems and improving animal care and control for years to come. See the amended ordinance here.

At NAIA our hats are off to all the officials involved in Monroe County. Key West provides a wonderful example of the positive outcomes that can result when citizens and governments work together to solve problems.



About The Author

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Patti Strand - NAIA President

Patti is a recognized expert and consultant on contemporary animal issues, most notably responsible dog ownership and the animal rights movement. She often appears on radio and television and her articles on canine issues, animal welfare, public policy and animal rights have appeared in major US news publications and in trade, professional and scientific journals. Patti and her… Read More >>


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