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AKC Government Relations has just learned that on Tuesday, June 2nd the Taos County, NM Board of County Commissioners will consider proposed changes to county animal control ordinances that include:

  • Mandatory spay/neuter provisions
  • Burdensome licensing fees
  • Leash requirements that could deem your dog to be “at-large” even when on your own property, and
  • Limit laws

It is vital that responsible dog owners and breeders attend the meeting Tuesday and oppose this measure.

Date: Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Time: 9AM
Location: Administrative Judicial Complex, Taos County Administration,
Commission Chambers, First Floor, 105 Albright Street, Room 106, Taos, NM

The American Kennel Club joins , AVMA, NAIA, No Kill Advocacy Center, and the American College of Theriogenologists and other national groups in opposing mandatory spay/neuter ordinances.  Mandatory spay/neuter policies are known to be ineffective in reducing shelter intakes and euthanasia.

Laws that limit animal ownership are ineffective, arbitrary, and do not address the underlying issue of responsible dog ownership. Limiting the number of animals a person may own will not automatically make them a better owner. Furthermore, both the dogs and Taos County taxpayers lose, as owners may be forced to give up their dogs to a local shelter in order to comply with the limit, and the dogs will be housed and/or euthanized at significant cost to the county.

Leash laws are vital to the safety of pets and community members in densely populated urban and suburban areas and serve to control animals in unpredictable situations off the owner’s property. However, deeming dogs off leash on their owner’s property to be “at large” in a county where there are significant areas of land which are rural farmland is not beneficial. Dogs may be used as livestock guardians, for herding or hunting or even just enjoy playing free on the owner’s property. It is unreasonable to deem animals on their own property as “at-large” and allow animal control to impound them when they are not causing any problems.

Issues of Concern

The leash law will deem even dogs that are on the owner’s property as “at-large” if they are not within a fenced area or on a leash. Animal control would be allowed to come onto your property and confiscate the animal. This is not reasonable in a county with rural area, especially when dogs may be used as livestock guardians or herding dogs. It also fails to make provisions for dogs being used for hunting, tracking, in field events or animals who are training for these events. (Definitions and Section 2-2 (A) and (B).

A resident wishing to own more than six cats or dogs must obtain a $150 Multiple Companion Animal Site Permit as well as purchase individual licenses for each dog. A maximum of 15 animals is allows and only 4 of them may be intact unless the owner possess a valid breeder permit. The American Kennel Club opposes limit laws as they are ineffective in addressing irresponsible pet ownership.

Allows any resident of an adjoining property to petition the county for revocation or modification of the permit if the property owner is “reasonably aggrieved.” It does not appear that the complainant prove that the owner is in violation of noise or sanitation ordinances meaning that an unrelated dispute between neighbors or a neighbor who simply does not care for animals could force an owner to relinquish beloved pets.

Anyone who wishes to own an intact dog must obtain a $200 permit per female animal and a $100 permit per male animal. (This would be in addition to the $150 Multiple Companion Animal Site Permit if you have more than six cats and dogs.)

Anyone wishing to breed a dog or cat must have $250 Breeder Permit (in addition to the individual license fees).

Breeders are mandated to allow any prospective buyers to visit their private property and to only sell animals from that site. While the AKC certainly encourages prospective pet purchasers to visit the breeder and their facilities when looking for the right pet, this is not possible in all circumstances nor is it a reasonable government mandate.  It also provides that new pet owners must allow breeders to visit their private homes. Again, the AKC supports this type of interaction on a mutually agreed-upon basis.  However, it is inappropriate for the government to mandate that private homeowners allow unknown individuals to enter their homes.

Prohibits a breeder from selling animals to a broker or pet store even if the breeder is licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture and in compliance with federal and state laws. It is not appropriate for local government to interfere in lawful commerce in this manner.

Breeders must provide information on buyers within Taos County to county animal control. Breeders are held liable for any medical costs due to sickness within a week from the date of sale up to the amount of the purchase price. The new owner is allowed to retain the animal even if the breeder refunds the full purchase price due to illness.

Breeder permits may be revoked if “the County has reasonable cause to believe that the standards set forth in this section are not being met.” This is vague and unreasonable.

Provisions are also made for a $50 litter permit which owners of female intact animals who do not have a breeder permit are required to purchase. However, since this permit is $200 less than the breeder permit it is unclear why anyone would purchase a breeder permit. The same provisions are applicable to the Litter Permit as to the Breeder Permit.

The ordinance stipulates that – “No animal should ever be allowed to suffer due to lack of medical care.” While we agree with the sentiment expressed here, the legal implications of this statement may be problematic. Who determines whether an animal is suffering due to lack of medical care? Does not having cataracts removed from the eyes of an elderly dog meet this threshold? What about removal of benign cysts? Or declining to treat a dog with chemotherapy or radiation treatment? This statement is very vague and it is unclear how it would be administered.

The ordinance makes provisions for inspection for animal facilities, including those holding Breeder Permits or Multiple Companion Animal Site Permits. Although Section 3-4 (C) (2) states that residents have the right to refuse an inspection in a private residence, the new proposal places to burden of proof on the breeder to prove that he/she is responsible rather than the government proving he/she is not. Permit holders are forced to prove a negative; how do you prove you aren’t doing something animal control might find objectionable? Essentially this means that the resident is “guilty until proven innocent” and provides animal control with unchecked power.

AKC Resources

AKC Position Statement: The Right to Keep and Enjoy Dogs
AKC Position Statement: Canine Population Issues
AKC Position Statement: Spaying and Neutering
Mandatory Spay-Neuter Issue Brief
Limit Laws Issue Brief
Issue Analysis: Why Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws are Ineffective

What You Can Do:

  • Attend the Taos County Commission Meeting Tuesday, June 2nd and speak in opposition to the proposed changes.
  • Contact the members of the Taos County Commission and ask them to oppose the proposed changes to the animal control ordinance.

Members of the Taos County Commission

Jim K. Fambro, Commissioner, District 1
105 Albright Street – Suite A
Taos, NM 87571
Ph:  575-779-2445

Mark Gallegos, Commissioner, District 2
105 Albright Street – Suite A
Taos, NM 87571
Ph:  575-779-4203

Gabriel J. Romero, Commissioner, District 3
105 Albright Street – Suite A
Taos, NM 87571
Ph:  (575) 741-1634

Tom Blankenhorn, Commissioner, District 4
105 Albright Street – Suite A
Taos, NM 87571
Ph:  (575) 770-9410

Candyce O’Donnell, Commissioner, District 5
105 Albright Street – Suite A
Taos, NM 87571
Ph:  (575) 779-3820

AKC Government Relations has just learned that on Tuesday, June 2nd the Taos County, NM Board of County Commissioners will consider proposed changes to county animal control ordinances.