A complete overhaul of animal laws, including new fees and limits on the number of dogs and cats a person can own, is being considered in Fort Dodge.
For many pet owners, the most immediate impact of the proposal would be a sharp increase in license fees that have remained unchanged since the 1970s. A pet license now costs $2. The proposal would boost that to $20 for an animal that has not been neutered and $10 for one that has been neutered.
The proposal seeks to define dangerous and vicious animals based on their behavior. It doesn't include a ban on any specific breeds, although one member of the committee that has spent months working on the plan has said he believes pit bull terriers should be outlawed.
Police Chief Tim Carmody presented the proposal to the City Council Monday. Although there was extensive discussion, the council took no action on it. The elected officials did not indicate when they might consider it again.
Carmody said the proposal seeks to establish a balanced system that protects both animals and people. He added that it attempts to prevent animals from being abused.
Additional goals of the proposal include providing clear guidance for the animal control officer and police, and establishing a set of fees that will help to move the animal control program toward self-sufficiency.
Carmody said the proposal is based on information obtained from the Animal Rescue League and animal laws in Clinton and Des Moines.
The proposed license fees include a $5 charge for anyone age 65 and older who wants to register one neutered animal. There would be no fee for assistance animals such as guide dogs.
Asked why anyone should register their pets, Carmody replied that the license information would help officials track down the owners if an animal is lost.
''It helps the owner get the animal back sooner,'' he said.
The proposal states that a person could own a maximum of six dogs, cats or ferrets.
Dogs would have to be on a lease anytime they're not on their home premises, according to the proposal. At home, they must be restrained so that they cannot go beyond the property line.
The proposal would make anyone walking a dog responsible for cleaning up the animal's waste.
Carmody said how an animal behaves, rather than its breed, should be the defining factor when deciding if it is dangerous or vicious.
''My belief and our committee's belief is that it should be behavior-based,'' he said.
Jim Koll, a Fort Dodge resident who is a member of the panel writing the proposal, said he believes pit bull terriers should be banned. He said the animal control officer should be given the power to determine an animal's breed, and an appeals process should be set up for pet owners who don't agree with his decision.
''It's not that difficult to deal with,'' he said.