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Please share this information with dog owners in Decatur, AL.

The Decatur (AL) City Council is scheduled to vote Monday, October 21, 2019, on amendments to the city’s animal ordinance that include restrictions on tethering, the establishment of minimum enclosure sizes for dogs, a requirement to use specified water receptacles, and other potentially problematic provisions.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  AKC agrees with the city’s intent to protect dogs in the community.  However, certain provisions in the proposed ordinance are vague and/or overreaching.  Decatur residents are encouraged to contact their city council members to politely express concerns and respectfully request that problematic provisions in the ordinance be removed or amended.  Residents are also encouraged to attend the city council meeting on 10/21/19.   Please scroll down for meeting and contact information.

 Provisions of concern include:

  • Arbitrary and unclear requirements for dog enclosures – Minimum required enclosure sizes would be 100 square feet for each dog weighing 30 pounds or more, and 36 square feet for each dog weighing less than 30 pounds.  It is unclear if a dog given regular exercise in a larger fenced area or a dog that is provided other forms of play/exercise would be subject to minimum enclosure sizes and dimensions.
  • The ordinance would require that neither the length nor width of any 100 square foot or larger enclosure may be less than 8 feet.  Under these arbitrary and scientifically unsupported requirements, a 10’x10’ (100 sq. ft.) enclosure would be legal, but a 6’x20’ (120 sq. ft.) and other standard-sized kennel runs would be illegal.  Further, neither the length nor width of any enclosure smaller than 100 square feet may be less than six feet.  For enclosures of less than 100 square feet, a 6’x6’ (36 sq. ft.) enclosure would be legal, but a 4’x10’ (40 sq. ft.) or 5’x18’ (90 sq. ft.) enclosure would be illegal.
  • Under these requirements, a resident of a townhouse or patio home with a small enclosed backyard could be found in violation of the law if any outdoor area into which a dog is allowed did not meet the size and dimension requirements.
  • It is unclear if the required enclosure sizes and dimensions would apply specifically to outdoor enclosures, or if these requirements would also apply to pens, kennel runs, rooms, and crates within residences and other facilities.
  • Unclear powers for animal control officers – 4-2-1-g. states that “the Animal Control Officer on site because of special circumstances may determine that the required fenced area should be adjusted…” However, the proposed ordinance does not define under what “special circumstances” an animal control officer would have access to a dog owner’s private property, nor does it define or limit the scope of adjustments the animal control officer would be empowered to determine.
  • Broad and unclear definitions of “cruel conditions” – Under the proposed ordinance, “cruel conditions” would include “subjecting the dog to dangerous conditions, including but not limited to attack by other animals”. AKC strongly believes that no dog should be deliberately placed in dangerous situations.  However, this unclear wording could potentially criminalize the legal use of dogs for certain working, farming, herding/flock guardian, and hunting functions. Further, it is unclear if it would be a violation if a dog were bitten by a snake, scratched by a cat, and numerous other situations.
  • Restrictions on legal water containers – The proposed ordinance would require that water supplied “shall be either free flowing or provided in a removable receptacle that is weighted and secured to prevent tipping”. It is unclear if use of standard water bowls, buckets clipped to fences, lick bottles, and other accepted and commonly used water containers would still be permitted.
  • Unclear restraint provisions – It is unclear if a dog outside of a fence or off-leash, but that remained on the owner’s property, would be considered under “restraint”.
  • Additional restrictions on tethering – Tethering a dog to a stationary object or stake would be prohibited, with certain exceptions for dogs tethered with an adult present; while participating in certain shows, trials and contests; and when under care of a veterinarian. No exceptions are provided for tethering a dog during training or for dogs engaged in legal hunting.  Use of cable runs would be allowed provided that the runner is specifically between 4 and 7 feet above the ground and at least 15 feet in length.

Resident dog owners may review the council agenda and ordinance here.  The proposed ordinance begins on page 182.

Meeting Information:

Decatur City Council Meeting
Monday, October 21, 2019
10:00 a.m.
402 Lee Street, Decatur, AL 35601

Contact information:

Decatur City Council: https://www.decaturalabamausa.com/departments/council-members/

Billy Jackson, District 1
wejackson@decatur-al.gov
(256) 351-8277

Kristi Hill, District 2
khill@decatur-al.gov
(256) 476-2184

Paige Bibbee, Council President, District 3
pbibbee@decatur-al.gov
(256) 306-6775

Charles Kirby, District 4
ckirby@decatur-al.gov
(256) 341-4784

Chuck Ard, Council President Pro Tempore, District 5
card@decatur-al.gov
City Hall Phone: (256) 341-4785
Cell Phone: (256) 318-5205

RESOURCES: 

Sassy’s Story – The Question of Tethering
AKC Canine Legislation Position Statement on Tethering

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

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us at enewsletter@akc.org
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