Several new animal control measures will soon become law in Dallas under regulations overwhelmingly approved today by the Dallas City Council.
By a vote of 10-3, the council enacted tougher spay/neuter regulations, limited the number of pets in one home, and banned tethering dogs to trees or posts except in limited cases. The law also includes a number of other new provisions.
Taken together, the majority of council members hailed the changes to the city's animal ordinance as an important step toward reducing the tens of thousands of stray animals roaming city streets and improving quality of life for pets.
"It's the first step in trying to solve a complex problem that has been going on for a long time," Mayor Pro Tem Elba Garcia said. "We all agree it's time to do something."
But some council members, and dozens of animal breeders and owners' rights advocates, argued that the new ordinance needlessly punishes responsible animal owners. Many also argued that Dallas' new ordinance would be difficult, if not impossible, to effectively enforce, noting that the city can barely enforce animal laws already on its books.
"We should have deferred this; we should have put this off until we could have gotten both sides together," District 9 council member Sheffie Kadane said.
Voting for the ordinance: Mayor Tom Leppert, Dr. Garcia, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, and council members Linda Koop, Steve Salazar, Mitchell Rasansky, Tennell Atkins, Vonciel Jones Hill, Dave Neumann and Jerry Allen.
Voting against the ordinance: Council members Sheffie Kadane, Ron Natinsky and Angela Hunt.
Council members Pauline Medrano and Carolyn Davis were absent when the vote was taken
As enacted Wednesday, Dallas' expanded animal ordinance would mandate:
* A charge of $70 per animal for breeders to obtain permits. Previously, the city planned to charge $500 per animal.
* A single house to be limited to six cats and/or dogs. People owning more than a half-acre of land would be allowed eight - something not contained in earlier versions of the proposal. People who currently own a greater number of animals could apply to the city for grandfathering, allowing them to keep their animals without penalty.
* Dogs and cats must be spayed or neutered. But the ordinance would provide numerous exceptions to a previously proposed mandatory spay-neuter provision. Dogs and cats younger than 6 months old, a service animal, or the property of a licensed breeder would be exempt from spaying or neutering regulations. A veterinarian may also certify that an animal shouldn't be spayed or neutered for health reasons, the briefing document states.
* Animals cannot be used as prizes.
* The city could seize, and then impound, a dog suspected of causing bodily injury to a person until after a hearing to determine the dog's fate. Now, such dogs are quarantined for 10 days and then returned to their owners in many cases.
* Tethering unsupervised dogs to trees or poles be prohibited except "for a period no longer than necessary for the owner to complete a temporary task."
* Owners must provide at least 150 square feet of space and a "building or properly designed dog house" for a dog confined outdoors.
The bulk of the ordinance will take effect July 1. Provisions addressing outdoor dog confinements go into effect September 25, while spay/neuter provisions and breeder permit regulations take effect October 25, according to the ordinance.
Prior to the council voting on the animal ordinance, Mr. Natinsky offered a substitute animal ordinance, which altered or deleted several provisions in the original animal ordinance proposal.
By city rules, the council first considered his substitute ordinance.
But the council quickly defeated it by a 9-4 vote, with only Mr. Natinsky, Ms. Hunt, Mr. Kadane and Ms. Koop voting for the substitute ordinance. Ms. Medrano and Ms. Davis were absent.