Casper City Council Passes Animal Care and Control Ordinance
The Casper City Council, after a few changes, passed a revised animal care and control ordinance on third reading at its regular meeting Tuesday.
"I think council re-asserted the importance of dogs being on a leash unless they are on a designated leash-free park, and Council has committed to increasing the number of places that are set aside for pets to be off leash, and we will be working on that," Mayor Charlie Powell said.
"But we do want to make it clear to people from this point forward if you have your dog in a public space it needs to be on a leash," Powell said.
The ordinance primarily targets "reckless animal owners" who mistreat or abuse their animals, who harbor vicious animals, who allow their animals to run "at large," and who are repeatedly convicted of violations, which are misdemeanors.
Work on the ordinance began in late October, when council member Chris Walsh submitted a report citing data collected at Metro Animal Services (his wife is Metro's director) from Jan. 1, 2017, to June 27, 2018.
There were 721 reported animal attacks or bites that had occurred in Casper, or more than one per day, with 539 of those being bites to people, many of whom required medical attention. The rest were animal-on-animal attacks, mostly dogs against dogs, Walsh wrote.
The original revision mandated all animals in public be on a leash, or if in a front yard be tethered or behind a fence.
But many residents objected, so Council changed the wording to require that a dog must be under "direct supervision," meaning the owner is with the dog and physically close enough to maintain contact and maintain control over the actions of the dog.
The amending nor the question were over, however.
Tuesday, a couple of people said they believed the ordinance could result in people losing their animals if the city receives too many calls from neighbors about their dogs barking.
Council member Khrystyn Lutz responded that the language in the ordinance refers to vicious animals and not dogs barking.
Walsh added that anyone accused of a misbehaving dog must be convicted of violating the ordinance.
Don Hinton said he appreciates the language that someone needs to be found guilty, but added that the ordinance has too many ways it can be interpreted.
He echoed others that the ordinance started about dog bites but morphed into something heavier in that it's "putting a leash on the owners."
Council member Kenneth Bates said someone accusing a pet owner of being reckless boils down to "prove it."
Nick Wales thanked the Council for the change about the leash requirement, but still had concerns.
Wales questioned the math about the 721 bites, saying someone at Metro told him many of those bites were by animals on their owners.
He also wondered if he went to a park and was playing with his unleashed dog if he would get a ticket, to which Powell responded "yes."
Wales responded that this approach means that all dogs were bad, he said. "If there's not a call, not a complaint, what's the issue?"
After the public comment and some amendments, Walsh said the revision of the ordinance started as a public safety issue.
It also became a way to place the responsibility where it belongs, he said.
In the past, an animal that was a danger to the public was euthanized, but that didn't affect the the owner, Walsh said. "Now it's on the owner."