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County proposes changes to animal laws
by Tribune Staff
Jan 18, 2011 | 1720 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Washoe County Regional Animal Services Officer Janeen Horner checks into her next assignment after an animal welfare check at an apartment in Sparks on Tuesday.
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Washoe County Regional Animal Services Officer Janeen Horner checks into her next assignment after an animal welfare check at an apartment in Sparks on Tuesday.
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RENO — About a dozen changes are being proposed to county ordinances relating to animal control and leaders want public feedback on them.

An open house is scheduled for Saturday at the Washoe County Regional Animal Services shelter, where staff will offer tours, demonstrate new technology that enables pet owners to claim their pets day or night (even on holidays) and answer any questions citizens may have about the proposed ordinance changes.

According to a county-issued statement about the proposed changes, the existing ordinances were last updated in 2005 and do not give animal services staff full authority to perform all of the duties they are responsible for, which is to provide for public safety and animal protection within the community.

These ordinance changes will allow county staff to support our community’s goal of being a pet-friendly community. The county boasts having one of the highest save rates in the country for pets that come into its facility. This is due in large part to the county’s partnerships with animal advocate organizations such as the Nevada Humane Society and individual citizens.

In general, there are 12 major categories that are affected by these changes. Below is a listing of them, along with a brief explanation of each, as written by Regional Animal Services.

Dangerous dog: Increases the insurance/bond requirements for dogs declared dangerous from $50,000 to $250,000; requires the county be listed as an additional interest on the insurance/bond so the county is notified in the event in a lapse in coverage; allows a hearing officer to conduct a dangerous dog hearing as opposed to the courts; requires secure containment of the dog pending the dangerous dog determination; and requires microchip identification.

Exotic animal permit: More accurately defines those animals that would pose a safety threat to the public. Prohibits owning primates, except for existing permit holders and for service animals qualifying under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dog variance permit: This permit provides a quicker and less resource intensive process than the existing kennel permit process for residents with four or five dogs. Requirements include: not more than one dog-related violation in the past year; all dogs must be spayed/neutered; all dogs must have microchip identification; and the property would still have to be inspected. Any violations of the dog variance permit would result in a revocation of the permit and the dog owner would have to go before the Animal Control Board to request reinstatement. Note: This also promotes spaying/neutering and microchipping of pets.

Kennel and cattery permit: Requires the applicant provide proof that a permit would not violate any covenants pertaining to the property. Requires applicants for a cattery permit to meet standards similar to those recommended by the Cat Fancier Association. Extends permit requirement to include the entire designated animal congested areas of the county; currently a permit is only required in the incorporated areas.

Animal control officer powers and duties: Clarifies an officer’s authority regarding the issuing of warnings, notices of civil penalty and citations. Also limits animal services authority regarding the euthanasia of animals; animals requested by a bona fide releasing agency, and removed from the center within 24 hours, will not be euthanized except for public safety reasons.

Found animals: Requires that a person notify animal services when they find an animal; they can’t just keep it or give it to someone else.

Animal cruelty: Prohibits horse tripping, i.e. intentionally causing a horse to fall for sport or entertainment.

Tethering: Expanded restrictions against tethering (chaining) of dogs to any public property (parks, sidewalk areas, etc.). Currently tethering is only restricted on gaming or other retail property.

Dog licensing: Modified to permit greater flexibility in licensing durations (i.e. three-year lifetime), as the Board of County Commissioners might approve in the future via the fee schedule, and to simplify the online application and renewal process for citizens.

Redemption of impounded animals: Requires that an impounded dog or cat have a microchip identification implanted at the time of redemption (current fee $12). This will help an officer return the animal to its owners should it be found at-large in the future.

Definitions and miscellaneous modifications: A number of definitions added; clarifications and other minor legal modifications also made.

Civil penalty: Nevada Revised Statutes permit civil penalties in lieu of criminal penalties for many violations of animal regulations. These proposed amendments will allow a civil process for most animal code violations. The violation might involve a safety concern that needs to be corrected immediately. The proposed amendments will authorize an officer to immediately issue a Notice of Civil Penalty (NCP), when appropriate. It gives the citizen who receives an NCP the option to pay one-half the penalty amount if paid within 30 days from the date of issuance, which is similar to the federal civil penalty process. Alternatively the party can opt for an administrative hearing.

A complete legal draft of the proposed revisions is available online at www.washoecounty.us/animal. Comments on proposed ordinance changes also can be made and read online. Washoe County’s Animal Services staff will read each comment and might make ordinance revisions prior to the Feb. 8 meeting and provide the county commission with a summary of those comments.

Saturday’s open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the facility located at 2825 Longley Lane in Reno. The Nevada Humane Society will have animals available for adoption. For more information, visit www.washoecounty.us/animal or call 353-8900.

A second open house will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Feb. 1 at the same location. Tours will not be offered at this event.

Anyone who can’t attend the two public meetings can give input other ways. The ordinance must be heard at two public hearings. The first will be at the Washoe County Commission meeting on Feb. 8 and the second reading, with possible adoption, will be on Feb. 22. Citizens are welcome to attend either hearing to express their opinions. Agendas for both meetings will be posted online at www.washoecounty.us/bcc.
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