Crestwood officials revise proposed changes to animal-control code

Proposed code revised after officials hear citizen complaints


In response to citizen complaints, Crestwood officials have made revisions to proposed changes in the city’s animal-control code.

Specifically, the proposed animal-control code now would keep many pet-license fees at current levels and require residents’ permission for Animal Control Officer Suzie Sutton to enter their homes and property to collect an animal.

City officials also have changed the required age for non-purebred pets to be spayed or neutered from six to 12 months and revised the code to still allow tethering, or tying, of pets.

During a Feb. 22 town-hall meeting at the Community Center, city officials said they now plan to present the newly revised animal-control code in late March or April for the Board of Aldermen’s consideration.

The city’s animal-control code originally was developed in 1965 and has not been updated since 1991.

Mayor Roy Robinson said that after studying the originally proposed changes to the animal-control code, he and other elected officials were convinced that some needed to be eased to accommodate residents.

At the same time, he said new provisions are needed to better control Crestwood’s animal population.

“All the people involved are animal lovers,” Robinson said at last week’s town-hall meeting. “And we are not trying to do anything that is detrimental to your pets or anything.

“But what we are trying to do is make sure that we maintain the amount of control that’s necessary to keep your neighbors safe, keep the nuisance problems down and to make people more responsible for their decisions to have pets and also take care of them because that’s very important, too.”

Under the proposed code, annual tag fees for cats and dogs still would jump from $2 to the originally proposed $5, but several previously proposed fee hikes now have been eliminated.

Annual fees for non-commercial kennel and cattery licenses will stay at $10, fees for commercial kennel and cattery licenses will remain at $50 and sportsman’s permits will be kept at $10.

Under the Animal Control Board’s original proposal in November, non-commercial kennels would have been charged $150 per year for a license and annual fees for commercial kennel and cattery licenses would have been $250. A kennel or cattery is defined as any residence that has more than three animals, according to the city’s current animal-control code.

While sportsman’s permits will remain at $10 instead of the originally proposed $50, the city has retained a proposal to require rescue organizations to pay $150 for a permit. Public Works Director Jim Eckrich explained this permit fee was left in the proposed animal-control code because the city currently has no permits for rescue organizations.

Robinson said although he was originally opposed to the idea of charging a $150 permit fee to rescue organizations, he now believes it is necessary to prevent such organizations from unlawfully owning such rescued animals.

“I had problems with that one, too, because there’s good people out there,” Robinson said. “But we also have people who are horders. They use the premise of taking in pets and stuff, but they can’t get rid of them afterwards. When you run in and you find 50 cats … and I can tell you one house had 50 different kinds of snakes, dangerous ones, boa constrictors and everything else. When you run into things like that, that tells you one thing — you’d better have some control over what happens in our city. Because if one of those snakes gets out and kills a kid, I don’t want to be the mayor when that happens.

“I want some kind of control where these people have to notify us at least. I don’t even think they’re allowed under the code anymore, any kind of dangerous animal like that. But we’re not trying to keep people from having pets. We’re trying to make sure that we know they’re there and that they’re not creating a nuisance for everybody else,” the mayor added.

As the costs for most of these permits are proposed to remain the same, city officials did say that aldermen will reconsider the levels of fees for permits after the changes to the animal-control code have been in place for one year.

All permits in Crestwood require review by city staff members, a hearing before the Animal Control Board and inspection of facilities by city staff.

The new fee increases were proposed to keep up with staff time needed for the city’s animal-control services.

Besides changes in permit fees, city officials have revised the animal-control officer’s right-of-entry authority, which some residents had previously said was in violation of their constitutional rights.

Under the new proposal revealed last week, the animal-control officer now would require a resident’s permission to enter a home or property to collect an animal. If permission is not granted, the animal-control officer would be required to go before a judge and obtain a court order before entering the home. If a court order is granted, the animal-control officer would be legally allowed to enter a home and would have to be accompanied by a police officer.

Despite the proposed change, resident Greg Prante questioned last week what procedure animal-control officers would follow if no one is home.

“If the house is unattended, anybody can come into my back yard?” Prante said.

“They should make an attempt to find out where you are if you’re going to be gone a reasonable amount of time,” Robinson said. “It may be based on the health and welfare of the animal that you may either have chained or you may have one in a cage of some sort that needs assistance and you may be, say you were gone two or three days and they didn’t have food and water, I think the animal-control officer should be able to look at it.

“The reason I had a problem with (the original right-of-entry code) was because it needed to have the words ‘probable cause.’ Being federal law-enforcement personnel at one time, I understand the probable-cause problem. And no one in this country is allowed to come in and search and seize without probable cause … This is not the Gestapo. We’re just trying to protect your property, your neighbors and trying to protect the animals, too.”

City officials also were questioned about their proposal to require non-purebred animals over the age of 12 months to be spayed or neutered.

Under the newly revised proposal, residents who own purebred animals will receive an “intact” license at no charge.

City Administrator Frank Myers said the requirement to spay and neuter all non-purebred animals over the age of 12 months was proposed to cut down on the number of stray animals.

“Our animal-control officer has encountered all kinds of situations where unwanted cats and dogs are born and people end up disposing them in trash cans and dumping them on the street,” Myers said. “And part of this is all designed because we are in an urban area … We as a government have to deal with all these stray animals that occur. And that’s why the rule is in place.”

However, resident Tim Anderson questioned why the spay/neuter requirement would be in place for non-purebred animals when many residents have owned “intact” pets for years.

“The only thing I’m really kind of disappointed with in the regulations is the mandatory neutering and spaying is still in place,” Anderson said. “I don’t know the distinction between a purebred and a non-purebred. I think what you’re saying is the people who have dogs when this goes into effect are immediately going to be in violation of the law unless they go out and spay or neuter their dog. They have had their dog six years, no problems, no issues. And then suddenly they’re going to be in violation …”

“I think for that particular one, you could grandfather those dogs,” Robinson said. “The age category, I don’t know of. But we will take that under advisement and find out.”