Two dogs or three? Cedar City Council debates canine complexities

Cedar City Council discusses changing the number of dogs residents can own from two to three, Cedar City, Utah, May 4, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George/Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY – After several weeks of discussing proposed changes to Cedar City’s dog ordinance, council members are now considering leaving things alone.

At issue is a proposal presented two weeks ago by city resident Winn Isom to raise the number of dogs residents can own from two to three.

The council originally considered adopting a special sportsman permit to allow residents to own three dogs but restrict ownership to those animals registered with the American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club.

Under this proposal, animal control would be required to conduct site visits to determine whether the property has “adequate dog runs to accommodate all three dogs.”

The council heard arguments Wednesday night on the proposed amendments to the ordinance, and those who spoke out were largely in favor of the change but did not want the council to limit ownership to AKC and UKC registered dogs.

Mayor Maile Wilson received a letter from the AKC concerning the proposed changes.

“I had a letter from the American Kennel Club actually objecting to the thought of having an ordinance that requires the dogs to be registered, in order to have more,” Wilson said. “I just found it interesting that even they did not necessarily agree to – the organization that collects the money from registering the dogs – doesn’t like that as a criteria.”

According to the meeting packet, Councilman Fred Rowley sent an email to city attorney Paul Bittmenn suggesting allowances be made for residents to own more than two non-AKC dogs, but only under certain circumstances.

Based on Rowley’s recommendations, Bittmenn drafted an alternative option called a “hardship permit.” Under this option, dog owners can own “an increased number of dogs for a limited time period in cases where the owner can show a compelling justification, with the peaceful enjoyment of neighboring property owners.”

Ownership would be limited to one year. The hardship permit lays out several requirements petitioners would have to comply with before getting permission from the city to keep three dogs.

It would be very inconvenient and expensive for them, but it would allow them to get through their problem without violating our ordinance, and without getting rid of a ‘family member,’” Rowley said in his email.

A violation of the city’s nuisance ordinance would justify withdrawing either one of the permits. Violations could include incessant barking, an animal running loose or incessant barking, Bittmenn said.

One of the main concerns for council members was whether the city had a large enough personnel in the animal control department to enforce the proposed ordinances. Wilson questioned whether changing the ordinance would just create more work for an already overtaxed staff.

“Are we going to increase the amount of dogs and still have this same question? We tell Animal Control we want them to enforce our ordinances, but then we end up right back here,” Wilson said, referring to increasing the number of dogs.

“If we do change it, will we stick with that or will we be right back here next year?”

Animal Control Officer Brandon Nowland admitted enforcement is an issue due to a lack of manpower in the department. Councilman Paul Cozzens said he doesn’t care how many dogs a person has on their own property, unless there is an issue with the animal being a nuisance.

“I don’t care how many animals you have in my neighborhood as long as they don’t encroach in my space, or my peace of mind or tranquility,” Cozzens said.

“I read the thing from the AKC the mayor forwarded to us last night. They’re not in favor of having any limits, just maybe beefing up the nuisance ordinance where people face a pretty stiff fine, or penalties or consequences for their dogs bothering others.”

“I mean you can do whatever you want but the minute that you start encroaching on my space or tranquility, then we got a problem,” Cozzens continued. “I’m having a hard time unless we go around and enforce this, and it’s rampant. There’s so many people in this town with more than three dogs it’s not even funny. So I don’t know where we go with this.”

In an interview with Cedar City News following the meeting, Cozzens said he would like to see the nuisance ordinance strengthened and better enforced.

We need to make the ordinance stronger so that it has some teeth in it and then we need to do a better job of enforcing it,” Cozzens said.

Council member Terri Hartley said she initially supported the changes but has begun to change her mind.

“I think there’s an issue in enforcing the nuisance, not only do (neighbors) not want to report it because we’re trying to be good neighbors, and so, you don’t want to offend your neighbor. So it becomes difficult,” Hartley said.

“I’ve heard from so many citizens in town that have come out, ‘please do not allow more dogs than there already is.’ So, initially I was in favor of giving a narrow scope of giving some kind of sportsman hobby permit and whatnot but it’s just become so complex that it’s very difficult to make any changes.”

Councilman Craig Isom agreed with Hartley in the meeting.

It adds too many complexities and difficulties to the situation,” Isom said. “I’m ready to leave the ordinance as it is.”

Hartley told Cedar City News after the meeting that she had heard from just as many residents who supported the increase in dog numbers.

Other business

In other business, the council discussed a draft resolution in support of Iron County adding a proposed “local option” sales tax of .25 percent to the November ballot.

If passed, the revenue collected by the county would be allocated to the various cities in the county to be used for transportation purposes.

Additionally, Aquatic Center Manager Chris Hudson proposed raising fees for the city’s recreational area, saying the city had not raised the fees since the facility opened in January 2011.

Hudson proposed raising the fees by 5 percent or 1 percent annually from the base price for all memberships. Daily admissions would be increased by 50 cents, and the new fees would go into effect May 28.

The city council will vote on all of these issues during their next meeting, which is May 18 at 5:30 p.m. The council meets in their chambers located at City Hall, 10 N. Main Street.

Email: tsullivan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @tracie_sullivan

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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