Cape council OKs task force, temporary pet permit

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

A new task force will look at possible revisions to a new animal-control law, the Cape Girardeau city council decided Monday night while approving a temporary permit for one couple who have five dogs and want to provide foster care for strays.

"We are in large part to blame for not having the proper language in there," Mayor Jay Knudtson.

At issue is a provision of the new pet law that requires owners of more than four dogs or four cats -- unless grandfathered in -- to obtain a special-use permit to operate a commercial kennel or be in violation.

The council also voted to establish a second task force to look at other nuisance issues such as junk cars. The first task force will focus solely on animal-control issues.

City manager Doug Leslie recommended and the council agreed that the nuisance-control task force would involve only members of the city staff. The animal-control task force will involve city residents as well as city staff.

The animal-control law drew the most discussion Monday night.

Jenny and Stephen Stigers own five dogs. They already owned the dogs before the ordinance took affect in August and were exempt from the regulation because of the grandfather clause.

But the Stigers said they would be in violation if they provided foster care for stray dogs or even allowed friends or relatives to board their pets at their home during a visit.

To comply with the new law, the Stigers requested a special-use permit.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the council issue a 90-day permit. Council members voted unanimously to grant the permit. They said that would allow time for a task force to look at possible revisions to the new pet law.

The Stigers live on a 21-acre site at 1343 Big Bend Road. But at a public hearing Monday night, three of their neighbors objected to the permit request because the language of the measure would have granted the couple the authority to operate a commercial kennel.

Harold Ridding of 660 Sylvan Lane said he had no problem with the Stigers or the Stigers' dogs. But he said he didn't want the council to approve any type of commercial kennel in his residential neighborhood.

"This is what scares me," he said. "This sets a precedent for more commercial enterprises."

Knudtson and other council members agreed that the new city law shouldn't require a commercial kennel permit for pet owners who simply want to keep more pets than allowed under the new law but who don't want to operate a business.

"I do believe the ordinance needs to be changed," agreed Gaylen Smith, 663 Sylvan Lane.

The council agreed, striking the word "commercial" but granting a temporary special-use permit for a kennel.

At the same time, Knudtson said the new task force, whose members could be named at the next meeting, will look at possible ways to improve the new pet law including possibly allowing for property size to be a factor.

Knudtson suggested that many pets on a large piece of property pose less of a nuisance than those housed on a single city lot. The law, he said, should be adjusted to account for such differences.

"This council will do what we have to do to try to get it right," he said.

But several council members said at the study session prior to the regular meeting that requiring special-use permits for pet owners with a large number of animals is the right approach even if it needs a few revisions.

"The special-use permit is still the way to go," Councilwoman Evelyn Boardman said.

Leslie said the animal-control task force would include a veterinarian, a member of the local Humane Society, a pet owner, a resident who doesn't own a pet and a police officer.

335-6611, extension 123

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