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Council upholds mayors veto of animal ordinance

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Since then, City Attorney Andy Wright has rewritten the Lebanon Municipal Code’s animal control section, specifically Chapter 2 regarding dogs. The newly rewritten code incorporates recommendations made by Ward 5 Councilor Haywood Barry from Ordinance 10-3719, trying to answer the concerns of citizens and Thompson.

When the ordinance came up for vote on the agenda, Farmer made a motion to override the mayor’s veto. However, no other councilor made a second motion in support of Farmer and the veto was upheld.

Now, Wright has to bring the newly written law before the council next month for approval. 

Pam Black, who came before the council last month to oppose the ordinance, issued her support of Wright’s changes to the code. “We respectfully ask that the council let the mayor’s veto stand,” Black said. She continued, asking that Wright’s rewritten code section be brought before the council next month for approval.

Melissa Richards, who also was present at last month’s meeting, and who opposed the ordinance at that stage, expressed equal satisfaction with the changes Wright had made. “I strongly encourage you to consider that ordinance as a compromise for everyone,” Richards said.

Curtis Reed also spoke opposition to the ordinance, giving an account of his own problems with a dog that incessantly barks next door. Reed favored the changes made by Wright and asked the council to reach a “viable solution to this problem.”

Several council members said they received emails from various groups and people far outside of Lebanon, criticizing the councilors and making accusations as a result of their vote on the ordinance on Aug. 17.

Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler pointed out that something needs to be done about making pet owners responsible for their pets, and he voted on an ordinance that would hold the owners responsible. He approved the changes made by Wright to the municipal code.

Barry said that he was only trying to improve the law, and pointed out that no law is ever perfect. In his recommendations he tried to clarify the questions expressed by Thompson in his letter. He felt that Wright’s changes to the code were satisfactory for all parties concerned.

“We do need a law that takes care of that, but it needs to be acted on the person,” Barry said, referencing the fines and penalties a pet owner can face for violating the new ordinance.

After the vote was passed, Reed and Black expressed their satisfaction with council’s decision to local media outside the meeting room. Reed pointed out his comments were made toward the pet owners, not the dogs, and was glad to see a law that would actually penalize owners for their lack of responsibility.

“We are perfectly OK with that. The city attorney did OK,” Black said in reference to the council’s vote. She continued, “The new [code] addressed everything.”

The new law incorporates some of the penalties to dog owners as well as the new record-keeping and enforcement aspects of the original version of Ordinance 10-3719.  The law creates a logbook for recording repeat offenders, or pet owners who are reported for habitually violating the law. The law includes the prohibition of noisy dogs that bark, howl or whine incessantly, and issues a $50 fine for each day the owner is in violation of the law.

One of the chief concerns of Thompson was the lack of a definition for a “vicious dog” in the original ordinance. The new version by Wright defines a vicious dog as “any dog that attacks and bites a person or animal on any public or private property without provocation” and “any dog previously declared vicious in a court of law; or any dog owned or harbored primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting.”

Also, the law includes a strict process if a dog bites or attacks a citizen or another animal that includes the dog’s seizure and impoundment if the owner is in violation of the law, and a legal process under state law that could lead to the dog’s humane destruction. The law also provides alternatives for humane destruction, such as the owner having the dog declared vicious and securely confined.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

 

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