A major revision to the new animal control law passed unanimously by the Fort Dodge City Council Monday.
The new law removes two unpopular provisions from the law that passed at the Sept. 9 meeting: the limit on the number of pets one could own and the requirement that dogs be fenced or leashed at all times, even on their owner's property.
The council also lowered the proposed charge for licenses, and created a six-month free period for pet owners to license their animals at no cost.
The council also voted unanimously to waive the second and third readings of the law, meaning this law will immediately supercede the Sept. 9 law. In fact, that ordinance was not signed into law by Mayor Matt Bemrich until Monday's meeting.
"If you let your dog off its leash in the next 30 minutes, you're breaking the law," Bemrich joked.
Council members Dean Hill, Mark Taylor, Don Wilson and Robert "Barney" Patterson had voted yes for the previous version of the law, while Dave Flattery, Andy Fritz and Kim Alstott voted no.
Fritz said he was pleased with the revision.
"From the start of this, these two issues have stuck in my craw," he said. "From comments, emails, phone calls we've gotten, these were the two main issues."
"I'm very happy with this too," Alstott said. "This is what I've been fighting for all along. I do believe it was treading on people's rights and liberties."
"I think it's a good compromise," Patterson said, "on what the committee was originally trying to do, and what the public said they wanted to see. It still addresses on a good basis what we're trying to do for safety, but gives the public a little more leniency."
"We said all along that this could be amended," Taylor said. "I just didn't know it would be this quick."
Jacque Johanson asked the council why it wasn't changed in the first place.
"For the gentlemen who voted for the flawed animal ordinance, why tonight were you so happy to do with the amendments?" she said.
Taylor pointed out that the initial plan was based on recommendations by a panel of experts.
"We were trying to get something in place for the police to be able to do their job," Taylor said. "It's a safety issue for all the people and animals in the city."
"At that time I didn't think it was flawed," Hill said. "I was totally against letting them run free on their own property, but the way it is worded now is that it will be the responsibility of the property owner."
Wilson said the at large part was for the safety of the dogs.
"I didn't think it was flawed. I thought it could be amended," he said. "I always said, give this ordinance a chance. ... I wanted the police to have more jurisdiction, more input in the ordinance. Before, all we had was one animal control officer to take care of the whole county."
Wilson added that no one had called him upset about the ordinance. Most callers were simply confused about what it said.
"I still think the original wording is what it should be," Patterson said. "But our job is to listen to the public."
"You are all elected people. You should listen to the people," Johanson said. "You didn't before tonight."
The law still states that dogs must be tied up or fenced while outside, unless they are in "the immediate presence and under the immediate control of the owner or person in charge of said animal and that person is mentally and physically competent to keep the animal under control at all times."
That means if someone's dog runs out of their yard at a person walking by, even if the owner chases after it and says it won't bite, that owner is breaking the law, Alstott said.
"Every time, they get fined, and every time the fines get higher," he said. "But you have to report it."
The council also considered putting signs up at city parks and trails reminding people to keep their dogs on leashes. It is illegal to let your dog run loose on a trail, they said, but not everyone seems to know it.
The law also states that no one can keep so many animals it creates an unsafe or unsanitary conditions. In that case, the city may limit the number of animals allowed for that person.
The council also decided to lower the fee for a complete animal to $10. Licenses for all animals will be free for six months, to encourage more people to register their pets.