City of Lockhart amends ordinance regarding adoptions from Animal Shelter
By Kristen Meriwether, Editor LPR
The Lockhart City Council unanimously passed an ordinance on March 16 that changes the language in the City Code regarding the adoption of animals from the Animal Shelter.
It removed the language that says reasonable effort must be made by the animal control officer to contact the owner of the animal and instead places the burden on the owner to visit the shelter to claim the animal. It also decreases the time the animal can stay at the shelter before being put up for adoption from seven to three days for licensed animals.
“Should the city not adopt such an ordinance, the risk is, I’m told, that rescue agencies would be less inclined to be active or to assist Lockhart, with the result of more animals being euthanized,” City Attorney Monte Akers testified at Council.
The ordinance comes in response to premature adoption of Marissa Morones dog, Squeaky Baby, in late January. As first reported by LPR, the Lockhart Animal Shelter picked up the dog on Jan. 28 and adopted her on Jan. 31. The premature adoption violated city ordinance, which required seven days.
The new ordinance will help protect the city and the non-profit rescue groups who help the shelter avoid euthanizing animals at the shelter. The non-profits are the biggest customer for the Lockhart Animal Shelter. According to data provided by the city 73 percent of all dogs that came into the animal shelter in fiscal year 2019-2020 were taken by vetted non-profits at no charge.
“In my several years of representing cities, this is one of the first, if not only times, when other lawyers came out of the woodwork to help me with this,” Akers said.
The ordinance offers protection to the rescue groups and the city but does not address the training and accountability issues the Squeaky adoption brought to light. Nothing in the new ordinance discusses better procedures to ensure staff and volunteers are trained in following City Ordinance. It simply amends the wording to protect rescue groups and the city in court when the ordinance isn’t followed.
The new ordinance also doesn’t address the fact the Animal Shelter doesn’t have a standardized system to notify people of animals when they arrive at the shelter. Instead, it puts the onus on the resident, and gives them a shorter time to claim their animal before losing their rights to the animal.
Currently a third-party site, Petfinder, posts some of the dogs at the shelter in hopes of finding them a new home. Resident James Tiemann testified during citizens comments asking that the city consider adding the photos of all impounded animals to social media sites like Facebook or Nextdoor. This would give residents who lost their pet a place to go, and residents looking to adopt a pet a place to find an animal.
The Council never debated the suggestion, passing the new ordinance with the consent agenda 7-0.