Cape approves limit on pets without permit

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Cape Girardeau won't be going to the cats and dogs, at least not more than eight in a single home without a permit to operate a commercial kennel.

The city council unanimously approved first reading of an ordinance Monday night limiting residents to a maximum of four dogs and four cats in a household without a special-use permit. The council action came over the objections of the local Humane Society and several local pet owners who said the regulation was unwarranted.

But council members and police chief Steve Strong said the measure would make it easier for animal control officers to take action when residents complain that their neighbors' pets are a nuisance.

Council members said the silent majority of residents favor limiting how many dogs and cats people can own.

Mayor Jay Knudtson said many city residents are appalled the city doesn't already limit the number of pets in homes.

"This isn't just a bunch of city councilmen who want to ban dogs," he said.

Knudtson said city staff found more than 100 Missouri cities have household limits on the number of dogs and cats. All are more restrictive than Cape Girardeau's proposed ordinance, the mayor said.

He said it's an inevitable nuisance problem if a city resident lives close to his neighbors and has more than four dogs, Knudtson said.

"If there was somebody living next to me with more than four dogs, I would have a fit," he said.

Councilman Hugh White said his concern is with city residents who have to live next to neighbors who have a large number of pets.

But Charles Stucker, who manages the Humane Society shelter, said the city needs to enforce its current animal control laws rather than enact new ones.

The important thing, Stucker said, is to see that pet owners have their dogs and cats spayed and neutered to prevent overpopulation. The proposed ordinance includes a provision that prevents city residents from owning more than four dogs and cats that aren't spayed or neutered. That provision also is in the existing law.

But city officials said the current law allows pet owners to have an unlimited number of spayed and neutered dogs and cats.

Humane Society supporter Joan Jones of Cape Girardeau said that the proposed ordinance doesn't solve the community's "dog problem." Limiting the number of pets doesn't address irresponsible pet owners nor nuisance animals, but simply punishes those who own a large number of dogs or cats, she said.

"You are penalizing good folks," she told the council.

Jones was one of six people who spoke against the measure. No one in the audience spoke in favor of the measure.

Violators could face a fine of anywhere up to $500, city attorney Eric Cunningham said before the meeting.

The council is expected to give final approval to the new ordinance at its Aug. 2 meeting.

335-6611, extension 123

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