Cape officials may revise pet rules

Monday, June 20, 2005

Proposed changes would increase the number of dogs allowed, though with restrictions.

Cape Girardeau residents whose homes sit on at least five acres would be able to keep up to six dogs, under proposed revisions to the city's pet law.

But most pet owners will be able to keep only as many as four dogs or as many as eight cats, city officials said.

The city council will discuss revising the pet law when it meets at 7 p.m. today at city hall.

The city's animal control task force in April recommended allowing pet owners to keep as many as six spayed or neutered dogs. But council members balked at the idea and asked the task force to review the issue.

The latest discussion comes nearly a year after the council approved a pet law limiting the pet owners to no more than four dogs and four cats in a household.

The latest task force proposal would allow a household up to six dogs on residential property of five acres or more. But there would still be restrictions.

If the dogs are housed outside, they must be kept within 300 feet of the home, according to the proposal.

The proposed revisions would allow pet owners to keep as many as eight spayed or neutered animals, but a maximum of only four dogs. Pet owners could have as many as eight cats, said police Lt. Mark Majoros, who served on the task force.

Majoros said households would be limited to only two pets if those animals aren't spayed or neutered.

The goal, he said, is to encourage the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats.

"Those pet owners who are good pet owners are going to do that anyway," he said.

The proposed revisions also generally would prohibit the raising of barnyard animals in the city. Task force members say such animals are a public nuisance.

There are some exceptions to the proposed prohibition, including city parks. Capaha Park currently is home to geese and ducks. Other exceptions are biological laboratories, hospitals, slaughterhouses, stockyards, zoos, pet shops, itinerant shows, and existing farms and horse stables.

Any resident could keep horses or cattle provided the property is at least five acres in size and has a minimum of one acre of grazing land per animal, officials said.

"The key there was the grazing area," said Councilman Charlie Herbst, who served on the task force. "A wooded area is not a grazing area."

If the council approves the changes, the task force plans to develop a pamphlet outlining the provisions of the pet law and the responsibilities of pet owners.

Postmaster Mike Keefe, who serves on the animal control task force, has agreed to mail the pamphlet to city residents. The pamphlets also would be made available at area veterinarian offices, task force members said.

Herbst said the nine-member task force wants pet owners to take responsibility for their animals. That includes cleaning up after them when they defecate in city parks, he said.

335-6611, extension 123

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