New City Animal Control Board Starts Writing New Set Of Rules

Monday, January 28, 2013 - by Gail Perry

The city's new Animal Control Board met Monday to start the process of setting standards for licensing that pertains to animals in Chattanooga. The board will initially have a concentration of meetings in order to establish the codes that will be required for the different types of certifications that are needed. Ordinances to regulate animal dealers, breeders, kennels, live animal performances such as the circus or for outdoor dining establishments wishing to allow pets are examples of issues that will come under the umbrella of this organization.

The first category being defined is the ordinance dealing with dealer permits. A family of ordinances will follow, but the first one established will serve as a roadmap for all the others, for example, specifying the role of the board if a violation occurs. The first goal for the board is to create a form for each permit, and then put all the permits together so they are compatible. The requirements of these proposals will also need to comply with all other local, state and federal laws and conditions. Once completed, the entire document will be presented to the Chattanooga City Council for its approval.

The first section of the ordinance considered Monday specifies that “The purpose of requiring a dealer permit is to protect the general health, safety and welfare of animals and to promote standards of care that will aid consumers in receiving animals in a safe and healthy condition.”

McKamey Animal Center is the entity that is in charge of enforcement of animal control laws for Chattanooga. Karen Walsh, executive director of the center, in conjunction with assistant city attorney Melinda Foster drafted the proposed ordinance for dealer permits for the consideration of the board members. At the meeting, Ms. Walsh gave an overview of the proposed laws which defines a “dealer” as a person who sells, buys or brokers animals including through the Internet.

The document suggests the requirement of a $300, non-transferable annual permit which must be displayed at all times at the place of business. The application and renewal process would include a yearly inspection made by an Animal Services officer to ensure the applicant complies with all the standards for the license. If it is determined that the permit not be approved, the applicant would be notified in writing and given the opportunity to correct the problems. A request could then be made to McKamey for a re-inspection. When in compliance, the dealer could come before the Animal Control Board and apply for a permit or renewal of one. In the case of a renewal, after a second permit denial, the applicant could not reapply for one year, forfeiting the application fee.

Standards that appear in this first draft of the ordinance include providing adequate care to each animal such as up-to-date vaccinations and adequate water and food. It will also be required for the seller to supply the purchaser with written information about the animal and its needs. The date of birth, record of ownership, surgical sterilization if applicable and veterinary care that has been performed would all be supplied. A signed statement by the dealer disclosing any known health problems is also suggested. It would be required for a dealer’s place of business to include an isolation area for sick animals. It would be up to the board to determine if a person found guilty of neglect or cruelty toward any animal would be banned from having a dealers permit for the suggested 10 years or never be allowed to have one.

To enforce the provisions of this ordinance, the city would have the right to conduct both scheduled and random inspections during business hours and inspect all records pertaining to this ordinance. If a complaint is made about a dealer, a representative from McKamey would make an investigation to see if the accusation is valid. If the health or safety of any animal is in jeopardy they may be impounded until a hearing before the Animal Control Board.

If the board determines a provision has been violated, a fine may be imposed of no more than $50 but the board can suspend the license for a specified period of time or revoke it. That person could also be cited to City Court and would still be subject to violations of other city, state or federal laws. The final decision made by the Animal Control Board may be appealed to the Chancery Court for Hamilton County.

In discussing the creation of this ordinance, the board members were advised that the more specifications put into writing the ordinance, the more difficult it would be for them to enforce the laws. One example given was to avoid defining a law about dogs and cats, which would make it difficult to enforce it for other animals.

Ms. Walsh told the board that there most likely would be a separate ordinance for rescue groups. Some of these organizations house and place animals for a fee but their services prevent a lot of problems that affect the city because they address the issues of health and of altering an animal.

Each board member left with a copy of the first version of the dealer’s permit ordinance. Chairman Mike Mallen suggested that members prepare comments, thoughts and questions concerning this first draft, and to email them to Ms. Foster before the next meeting on Feb. 4. She would then have time to determine what comments are valid and what to incorporate into the revised ordinance. The plan is for her to prepare a revision and send it to the board members before the meeting scheduled for Feb. 20, where it is hoped a vote can be taken.

In order to keep the process moving along, during the two-week period between the next meetings, there is a goal to create the first version of the ordinance pertaining to animal breeders.

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