Pet ordinance

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Cape Girardeau City Council recently took the first step toward adopting an ordinance intended to curb problems with nuisance pets by placing greater restrictions on pet owners. Final council action is on Monday night's agenda.

The ordinance would limit the total number of pets a city resident can own. Only four cats and four dogs would be allowed in each household without special-use permits. Violators could face fines up to $500.

The council said it wasn't out to ban dogs but to limit problems with nuisance pets. Yet city ordinances already regulate nuisance animals and vicious dogs.

The push to address nuisance pets began last year when several residents told the council about problems they were having with aggressive dogs running loose in their neighborhood.

Instead of enforcing existing ordinances and fining irresponsible pet owners, the council chose to create a more restrictive pet ordinance. The current law allows a resident to own four animals that aren't spayed or neutered but places no limits on the number of pets that are spayed or neutered.

Despite opposition from residents who attended the last council meeting and from the director of the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri, who is a former animal-control officer in the city, the council approved the more restrictive measure.

What is the value of adopting an ordinance that puts more restrictions on good pet owners without enforcing existing laws? The council believes the new ordinance will make it easier for animal-control officers to take action when complaints are lodged. We believe it would be better to enforce any ordinance that encourages responsible pet ownership than to place unnecessary restrictions on those pet owners.

Or, if there are compelling reasons to enact a new ordinance, that they be publicly stated and clearly supported.

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