City gives animal control ordinance more bite
By LPR Staff
In response to two recent tragedies involving children mauled by dogs in Central Texas, the Lockhart City Council heard two proposals on Tuesday evening that would add strength to the city’s current animal control ordinances.
After hearing news recently of toddlers in Luling and San Antonio that were killed by dogs,
District 4 Councilmember Richard Banks decided to research the city’s current ordinance in an effort clarify the ordinance and provide additional protection to both children and pets. At the same time, Animal Services Director Melanie Tucker chose to bring a strengthened version of the ordinance before the council for approval.
“We must protect small children from the possibility of wandering into the danger zone,” Banks said. “Animals that are chained become aggressive and dangerous, and it’s impossible.”
Under Banks’ version of the proposed ordinance, it would become illegal for an owner to tether a dog, except under specific circumstances. All dogs, he proposed, would be required to be restrained inside a fence “of sufficient strength and height to prevent such dog… from escaping therefrom.”
Banks’ ordinance left every animal, as he said, “150 square feet that he can run around in.”
Tucker, on the other hand, left provisions for humane tethering in her ordinance, with restrictions on tethering mirroring current state law on tethering.
“We don’t consider a dog that can go over, under or through a fence to be ‘restrained,’” Tucker said. “And tethering would come into play, either with a humane tether or a humane muzzle, in a situation where a dog might nip at people through a fence.”
Tucker’s ordinance also changed the city’s adoption procedures, allowing for reduced adoption fees for animals that are “long-time residents” of the shelter.
“Dogs that live in a shelter for more than 45 days tend to deteriorate mentally,” she said. “Changing that will give us the chance to have kind of a ‘guardian angel’ program, that might make these dogs, the ones that have been deemed adoptable but haven’t been adopted yet, a better chance to find forever homes.”
Her ordinance also allows Animal Control to spay or neuter an animal found running at large twice in one month, or three times in a six month period, with the owner being responsible for paying the fees for the surgery before reclaiming their animal.
“We only see a few repeat offenders,” she said. “And those repeat offenders are generally a product of irresponsible pet ownership. By spaying or neutering those animals before releasing them to their owners, we have the chance to help control the pet population.”
She also increased the fines for violations of the ordinance, increasing the fine from $25 – $200 to $50 – $250 for the first offense, and $500 for subsequent offenses within a 12-month period.
Banks’ version did not address changes to provisions for animals running at large, but he stated during the meeting he disagreed with Tucker’s proposal.
“Why should the city handle these animals over and over again because of these arbitrary dates,” he asked.
Though Banks initially proposed a compromise, combining his version of the ordinance with Tucker’s, the council voted 6-1 to approve Tucker’s ordinance as it was presented. Banks voted against the proposal.
In other business, in a split vote, the council approved a resolution allowing city staff to move forward with the process of acquiring Certificates of Obligation for the purchase of a fire truck, renovations to the Dr. Eugene Clark Library, and street, drainage and sidewalk improvements.
The certificates have been discussed repeatedly by the council, with some members believing the city should hold off on issuance until economic conditions stabilize. However, if the certificates are approved for the coming fiscal year, taxpayers will see a minimal increase in tax rates for repayment, because a considerable amount of city debt will be relieved in the near future.
Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram, District 3 Councilmember Lew White, Councilmember At Large Dick Wieland and Banks voted in favor of moving forward. District 1 Councilmember Kenny Roland, Councilmember At Large Paul Gomez and Mayor Pro Tem Frank Estrada voted against the measure.
In brief news:
Bertram read a series of proclamations, declaring April “Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month,” “Fair Housing Month” and “Cesar Chavez Farm Worker Appreciation Month.”
The council recognized the winners of the Lockhart Post-Register’s Best of Caldwell County Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Police Officer, Best Paramedic and Best Firefighter.
Rodgers reported that city crews will begin work on an18-inch water transmission line within the next 30 – 45 days. He also reported that the water levels in city wells are holding steady, despite drought conditions in the area. Lockhart residents are reminded that the city is still under mandatory water use restrictions, regardless of the steady well levels.
The council approved a resolution asking the Texas Department of Transportation to “dual designate” Highway 80 from San Marcos to Martindale as Highway 80/Highway 142. The dual designation will allow another opportunity for TxDOT to install directional signs for Lockhart on IH-35 through the Austin-San Antonio corridor.
The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Room of Lockhart City Hall. Meetings are open to the public and televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.