Borger’s city manager Eddie Edwards continued to address the concerns brought before the city regarding its new animal ordinance at the regular meeting of the Borger City Council last Tuesday.
One of the concerns brought up by citizens was that taxpaying pet owners were going to have less due process than people who receive welfare fraudulently or those who are convicted felons. He said due process has different meanings under different circumstances.
“If you are indicted for a crime or have been convicted of a crime, due process is much more meaningful. If it’s a serious crime, due process should be afforded for that purpose,” Edwards said. “However, as it pertains to animal control, it is the intention of this ordinance to afford all due process as prescribed by state law.”
Due process of law is a fundamental, constitutional guarantee that all legal proceedings will be fair and that one will be given notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard before the government acts to take away one’s life, liberty, or property. It is also a constitutional guarantee that a law will not be unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious, meaning impulsive.
Also a concern was the requirement that pet owners be required to pay for rabies shots on an annual basis, even though the State of Texas only requires pets to be vaccinated for rabies every three years.
“There are several references throughout the ordinance to the rabies vaccination requirement that are differing,” Edwards said. “Let me just be clear. It is the intention of the ordinance to require rabies vaccinations at intervals prescribed by the Texas Board of Health or its successor agency. All references that reference an annual period will be changed to meet the current requirement, which is three years.”
People also expressed concerns about the imposition of unspecified new fees. Edwards said the intention of the ordinance is to charge appropriate fees designed to cover costs associated with the care, custody, and/or monitoring of the animal.
“The staff absolutely believes that the actual care, custody, and monitoring of an animal are the owner’s responsibility,” he said. “The annual animal control budget is approximately $200,000 a year. There is absolutely no way we would ever even try to recover that through a fee-based system of the city.”
However, as animals are impounded or caught on the loose, Edwards said there are times these animals will need medical attention. He said the vets are great, and deserve to be paid for the services they give to such animals.
“We feel that the owners of the animals, if they can be identified, should bear the cost of the care for that animal, not the taxpayer,” he said. “It is the intent of this ordinance that the animal owner pays any fees associated with the care of that animal.”
Edwards said no fees are included in the new ordinance. Right now, the city’s current ordinance does include the fees. He said cities are getting away from including the fees in their animal control ordinances and are instead putting all of their fees in resolution form.
“That resolution would still be approved by the council before any fees change,” he said.
He also explained further about the proposed fee changes, with the impound fee being one of those affected. The current ordinance lists the impound fees as $20 for the first offense, $25 for the second offense, and $35 for the third and subsequent offenses. Under the new ordinance, these fees would go up to $30 for the first offense, $40 for the second offense, and $80 for the third offense and so on.
“Obviously, those increase with multiple offenses,” Edwards said. “There needs to be a deterrent for continually allowing your animal to run at large.”
Currently, the city does not have fees for permits. The new ordinance would introduce three permit fees, which includes temporary permits, permits for multiple pets, and permits for rabbits and fowl. He said these permits would only apply if a pet owner’s number of pets exceeded four
Another fee addressed in the new ordinance is dangerous animal registration, which would be lowered from $50 in the current ordinance to $25 in the new ordinance. Adoption of dogs and cats, currently sitting at $26 and $21, respectively, would be covered under a $25 flat fee for both.
A new quarantine of $25 would be introduced, and the daily boarding fee for animals would go from $4 a day to $10 per day. Edwards said the fees are not exceptionally high and would not even come close to covering all of animal control’s costs.
(Watch tomorrow’s paper for the addressing of additional animal control ordinance concerns by Edwards.)