By BILL SHEA
Fort Dodge dog owners taking their four-legged friends out for a stroll would need a leash that's no more than six feet long and something they can use to clean up after the animals under revised animal control laws being considered by the City Council.
The proposal also includes new fees for the pet licenses that owners of dogs, cats and ferrets are required to buy from the city government. Although the proposed license fees are higher than the current $2, they have been reduced since the plan was introduced in May. For example, the owner of an animal that has been spayed or neutered would pay $6 for the annual license.
Those licenses would be available from veterinarians as well as the city clerk's office, under the plan. Veterinarians will not be required to offer the licenses, however.
Police Chief Tim Carmody said creating an environment that is safe for animals, people who own animals, and those who don't own animals is the intent of the proposal.
New FD pet license fees
All dogs, cats and ferrets in Fort Dodge must have a license from the city government.
Those licenses cost $2.
The proposed overhaul of animal control laws includes these new license fees:
- Animal that has not been neutered or spayed $15.
- Animal that has been neutered or spayed $6.
- Animal classified as dangerous or vicious $30.
- Assistance animals No fee.
- Senior owner (age 65 and older) 50 percent discount for one neutered or spayed animal.
The higher license fees, he said, are meant to ensure that pet owners pay a little bit more of the costs to provide animal control services. He said the city spends about $68,000 on animal control, but receives only about $3,000 from licenses and other fees. The rest of the needed animal control money comes from property taxes.
The city's animal control laws and license fees have been largely unchanged since the 1970s.
Jim Koll, a former Webster County attorney and public defender who served on the committee that wrote the proposal, said the current laws can't be enforced in some instances because they are worded vaguely. The new proposal improves that situation, he said.
''My advice to animal owners is become familiar with the new ordinance and comply with it,'' he said.
Turning the proposal into law will require three affirmative votes of the City Council. The first of those votes may occur during the July 22 council meeting.
Under the proposal, it is illegal for anyone to allow a dog, cat or ferret to run at large.
Whenever an animal is not at the home of its owner, it must be on ''a leash, cord, chain or similar restraint not more than six feet in length and under the control of a person mentally and physically competent to keep the animal under restraint at all times,'' according to the proposal.
There are a few very specific exceptions to that rule. For example, a dog could be without a leash if it is with its owner or trainer during a kennel club event.
At its owners home, an animal must be restrained by a leash, cord, chain, or invisible fence that does not allow it to go beyond its owner's property line.
Koll said the rules regarding leashes and restraint of animals are one of the major improvements provided by the proposal. He said the current leash law is ''pretty much unenforceable.''
The proposal would, for the first time, require dog owners to clean up after their pets.
The measure states ''The person in control of an animal outside their own residence shall have a device or container available to reasonably remove and dispose of said excrement or droppings.''
Maximum number of animals
The proposal would allow Fort Dodge residents to own up to six pets, but only three of them could be dogs.
It allows residents to get permission to own a fourth dog, if the animal weighs no more than 20 pounds, has been vaccinated for rabies, and has been spayed or neutered. People who seek permission to have a fourth dog can have a maximum of two cats.
The limit on the number of pets doesn't mean that people who already have more than the permitted number have to get rid of any animals. Assistant Police Chief Kevin Doty said those animals will be allowed if they are properly licensed. However, the owners would not be allowed to get any new animals and would have to gradually reduce the number of pets as animals die.