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August 5, 2019

The Fort Smith Board of Directors will consider an ordinance tomorrow, August 6, 2019, that seeks to establish dog and cat licensing; excessively costly dog breeder licensing fees; and new requirements, fees and penalties that impact a wide range of pet owners.

The Board will also consider a resolution to approve a contract with a private company to provide animal shelter services that authorize fees for the city’s pet owners.

Concerns with these measures include, but are not limited to:

The annual pet license fee, which is defined in the ordinance as “printed or written permission issued by the city or its agent to keep a cat or dog within the city limits”, would have an initial yearly cost of $10 for each altered/microchipped pet and $60 per year for each unaltered/microchipped pet.

The cost of a breeder license would be $500 per year for each dog or catIn addition, a city business license would be required before applying for breeder license(s).  Issuance of a business license would be subject to zoning restrictions and other requirements.  Any person holding a breeder license who sells or transfers a dog or cat would also be required to obtain a sales tax permit, regardless of whether compensation was received.

The ordinance could also subject every person who breeds a single dog or cat to warrantless, unannounced inspections.  Under existing law, a “kennel” is any person engaged in the raising, boarding, training, breeding, grooming, riding for hire, impoundment, showing to the public or selling of any and all types of animals.  It is a condition to the issuance of any animal license or privilege license permit for a pet shop or kennel that a representative of the city administrator must be permitted to inspect at all reasonable times all animals and premises where animals are kept. If permission for that inspection is refused, the license or permit may be revoked upon direction of the city administrator.

These measures further provide that:

  • It shall be a violation for any owner to possess a dog or cat without microchip identification and some form of secondary identification such as a collar with a tag that contains specified information. Under existing law, a properly fitted collar is defined as “measuring the circumference of an animal’s neck plus at least one inch additionally”, and “that shall not be so loose that it can slide over the animal’s head”.  It is unclear how owners of puppies, small dogs, kittens and cats would comply with this secondary identification requirement without compromising the safety of their pets.
  • The animal control officer “shall seize and impound at the contracted impoundment facility all dogs and cats found in violation of any provision of current and proposed law “whether such dog or cat shall be in the immediate presence of its owner or otherwise”.
  • The owner of a dog or cat found, “retrieved by”, or brought to an animal control officer that the officer determines to be “running at large” and that is impounded shall be subject to one or more civil penalties ranging from $25 to $150. It is unclear if the officer must personally observe the animal to be running at large in order to make such determination.
  • Costs of redeeming a lost or impounded pet include a service fee of $25; an impounding fee of $25 (it is unclear if the service fee and impounding fee are the same or separate fees); a $50 fee if the animal is received outside of business hours, on a weekend, or holiday; and a $20 per day boarding fee. After-hours fees and boarding costs in excess of taxpayer funds paid to the animal sheltering company would be retained by that company. This potentially financially incentivizes the increased impoundment and holding of pets.
  • The proposed contract provides that a lost or impounded dog or cat may be administered vaccinations and tests at taxpayer expense, regardless if such services are needed or are medically indicated for an owned pet.

Click here to view the meeting agenda, which includes the proposed ordinance and contract.

It should be noted that several problematic provisions under existing law, for example, arbitrary animal enclosure sizes for domestic animals and the aforementioned collar requirements, could serve to enable increased impoundments of cats and dogs, even when no animal is harmed.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Fort Smith residents are urged to contact their elected officials to express their concerns.  Click here for Board of Directors contact information.

 Attend the Board of Directors meeting:
Date: Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Time:  6:00 p.m.
Location: Fort Smith Public Schools Service Center, 3205 Jenny Lind Road, Building B

Resources

Issue Analysis:  The Value of Responsible Dog Breeders
No Animal Was Harmed: New “Animal Cruelty” Definitions Turn Good Dog Owners into Criminals

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