Neptune Beach (FL) Proposed Animal Ordinance Contains Problematic Sections

A proposed ordinance that contains provisions of concern to dog owners has passed first reading in Neptune Beach, Florida.

A proposed ordinance that contains provisions of concern to dog owners has passed first reading in Neptune Beach, Florida.  Although the American Kennel Club (AKC) commends Councilor Rory Diamond and city council members for amending the ordinance to include penalties for persons who misrepresent pet dogs as service dogs, we have significant concerns about several sections of this proposed law.

The AKC has reached out to the Neptune Beach city council and asked that they make the following changes to the proposed animal ordinance.

Animal owners in Neptune Beach are urged to contact their elected officials and ask them to revise these problematic sections prior to the final vote.  The next city council meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 6, 2017.  (Please scroll down for meeting and contact information.)

Concerns with the proposed ordinance include, but are not limited to:

Section 6-1:  the revised definition of “At large” would consider a dog that is off leash or outside of an enclosure and that never leaves the owner’s property to be at large, and could subject its owner to significant penalties.

AKC recommends this addition: 

At Large means that an animal is off the property of the owner and: (1) . . . 

This revision will clarify that an animal that remains on its owner’s property shall not be considered at large.

Section 6-4(d): seeks to make it a violation to maintain a domesticated animal in such a manner that it creates an “overpopulation of one said animal”.  This term is undefined, and therefore, compliance or lack of compliance cannot be determined.

AKC recommends:

Strike “or an overpopulation of one said animal”.

Section 6-4 (f): seeks to determine that an offense has occurred and to assess significant penalties based on the sworn affidavit of one` resident without requiring dutiful investigation by the proper authority or judicial review.  We are very concerned that this section states that a person SHALL be guilty of a municipal offense based on the submitted affidavit. 

AKC recommends:

Amending this section so that the rights of the accused are protected, to provide for proper investigation to determine the facts of a resident’s complaint, and to provide for judicial review. 

Section 6-7(b): seeks to reduce the time that an owner has to recover a lost or impounded animal from five business days, excluding the day of intake and the day of disposition, to five calendar days.  Under this provision, if a dog accidently slipped its collar and escaped from its owner or was impounded based on an allegation at the start of a holiday weekend, the available time to recover the pet could be reduced to two days. 

AKC believes this insufficient, and recommend that the current language should be maintained. 

We also note that the Florida Animal Control Association recommends a minimum holding period of five working days for owned animals and three (3) working days for strays. An animal is considered owned if it possesses any form of identification.

Sec. 6-27:  fails to consider numerous circumstances in which a dog may be off the property of its owner and not secured by a leash.  Examples include but are not limited to:

  • When in a public or private dog park;
  • When engaged in tracking, man trailing, search and rescue, cadaver identification, and law enforcement activities and when in training for these purposes;
  • When used for herding, guarding livestock, hunting, and other purposes;
  • When in training for and exhibiting or competing in obedience, rally, agility, field trials, herding tests, and other events. 

AKC recommends adding to this section: 

Nothing in this section is meant to require use of leash to restrain a dog that is attended by an owner, handler, or trainer and is within the fenced boundaries of a private or public dog park; is actively and lawfully participating in or training for tracking, man trailing, search and rescue, cadaver identification, law enforcement activities, hunting, herding, or livestock guarding; or that is actively participating in or training for obedience, agility, field trials, herding tests, coursing events, and other recognized tests, exhibitions and competitions.

6-30 (b-c): seeks to determine that a violation has occurred and to assess significant penalties based on the sworn affidavit of one adult witness without requiring dutiful investigation by the proper authority or judicial review. 

AKC recommends:

Significantly amending this section so that the rights of the accused are protected, to provide for proper investigation to determine the facts of a witness’s complaint, and to provide for judicial review. 

6-32: because section 6-28 is stricken, it is unclear how this section shall apply.

6-35 (a):  It is burdensome to require an animal owner to comply with three sets of guidelines, particularly when such guidelines may offer conflicting information and may not be accordance with the recommendations of the veterinarian who provides direct care to the animal.  Further, “sufficient exercise” is not defined.  Defining “sufficient exercise” is problematic because what is appropriate for a horse could be detrimental for a fish or bird. 

AKC recommends:

Striking “sufficient exercise” and striking the final sentence of section (a). 

6-35 (b): is unclear in as to the restrictions and exemptions that would be applied to animals that are held temporarily in certain enclosures.  The phrases “free and full movement”, “full movement” “without exercise”, “free movement” are used inconsistently.  “Wholesome exercise” is not defined.

AKC recommends the following amended language:

Keeping an animal in an enclosure that prevents the animal from fully extending its limbs, standing fully erect, fully turning around, sitting and lying down without obstruction, and without wholesome change of air. Nothing in this section is meant to restrict the use of a crate or enclosure that allows an animal sufficient space to fully extend all limbs, stand fully erect, fully turn around, and to sit and lie down without obstruction. Nothing in this section is meant to prohibit the transport of animals in ‘airline crates' or to prohibit the temporary use of a crate that may restrict an animal from fully extending its limbs, standing fully erect, fully turning around, sitting and lying down without obstruction while cleaning the enclosure; to separate animals while feeding; or while in attendance at or while actively training an animal for a show, event or lawful hunting.

6-35 (d): is redundant – these requirements are addressed in (a) and (b). 

Animal owners in Neptune Beach are encouraged to contact their city council members to express concerns about the proposed ordinance and to urge council members to support these recommended changes to the measure.

 

City Council Regular Meeting
February 6, 2017
6:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, 116 First Street
Neptune Beach, Florida 32266

Mayor Elaine Brown
Seat 1
ebrown@neptune-beach.com
904-318-5904

Vice Mayor Scott Wiley
Seat 2
swiley@neptune-beach.com
904-626-4612
 
Councilor Rory Diamond
Seat 3
rdiamond@neptune-beach.com
904-891-5011

Councilor Richard Arthur
Seat 4
rarthur@neptune-beach.com
904-422-7424

Councilor John Jolly
Seat 5
jjolly@neptune-beach.com
904-249-0225

For more information, please contact AKC Government Relations at 919-816-3720 or doglaw@akc.org.  

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