By Tia Lynn Ivey
Members of the Madison Mayor and City Council were hesitant to move forward with proposed changes to the city’s animal control ordinance, which aims to created a new designation for dogs that do not quite meet the “dangerous dog” requirements but surpass a “nuisance” status.
In order for a dog to be deemed a “dangerous dog,” they have to bite or attack a person. Animal Control Officer Crystal Berisko asked the council to consider creating another category for dogs who have attacked other animals or that have damaged property, deeming such dogs as a “public threat.”
Dogs in this category would be subject to stricter confinement requirements, be monitored by animal control for 18 months, and the owners would be subject to fines and citations.
“It resembles the dangerous dog designation,” said Berisko at the council work session last Friday. “What this will do is close that gap between a nuisance and dangerous dogs classification.”
“I think there should be a classification for this, but the mandates here are pretty strict, said Councilwoman Chris Hodges.
Madison Animal Control is also working on determining the limit of animals a person can have on their property based on acreage size instead of zoning status. The ordinance proposal also calls for mandatory sterilization of dogs and cats four months or older, unless they meet certain exemptions, such as owners being licensed for breeding through the Department of Agriculture, animals registered with a national or international club, or a licensed veterinarian deeming the animal medically unfit for sterilization.
However, the council was wary of this addition, too. Councilman Rick Blanton objected to making sterilization mandatory.
“I understand your role in this and an argument can be made that this is a good thing, but to make it mandatory, that just seems overbearing to me,” said Blanton, We want people to recycle but we don’t require them to do it, we incentivize them to do it. Couldn’t something like that be done here?”
Councilman Joe DiLetto also echoed Blanton’s concerns.
“Just because you want a mutt, doesn’t mean you don’t want some puppy mutts,” said Diletto.
According to Berisko, not all breeding would be impeded as the state allows for one hobby litter per year for pet owners.
“This is about curbing irresponsible breeding,” said Berisko. “Hopefully, it will get the public to help us locate strays to spaid or neuter them before they breed or spread diseases.
Berisko noted that the number of taken in strays has more than tripled in the last fiscal years, primarily among cats. Five cats have tested positive for feline AIDS.
“We are not overrun with it, but the disease spreads between feral cats and we want to catch it before it turns into something more,” said Berisko.
The City Council will seek public feedback at the Monday, July 10 regular meeting and try to hammer out a version of the proposed ordinance everyone can agree on before voting on it.
“We want to be sure we are doing the right thing and making the right decision,’ said Madison Mayor Fred Perriman.