By Lauren Cabral
The Cove Herald
The long-awaited amendments to Copperas Cove's animal control ordinance were approved this week by the Copperas Cove City Council and will be put into effect on March 15, but some members of the animal control committee who compiled them were not completely satisfied.
More than 45 amendments to Chapter 3 of the code of ordinances were adopted Tuesday, but Robyn Bandinel, a member of both animal advisory committees created by the council in March 2010 to review and suggest ordinance changes, said a few important changes were cut out of the approved amendments.
"It's been hard trying to convince the city of the importance of some of this stuff, and to be proactive," she said.
One approved amendment outlaws keeping or harboring more than four dogs and/or cats over the age of 4 months within the city limits. Exceptions include kennels or property in zones authorized to keep a greater number of pets.
Foster volunteers desiring to foster animals may keep four additional dogs and/or cats after receiving written approval from an animal control officer.
Beau Brabbin, senior animal control officer at the Copperas Cove Animal Control Department, said the ordinance allows citizens to have only four outdoor dogs or cats, but strictly indoor cats or dogs, or caged animals such as reptiles are birds, do not count toward that number.
The previous ordinance allowed for only four animals in general to be kept, but anyone desiring to house additional animals was able to
apply to do so. Brabbin said those who successfully applied to have additional animals under the previous ordinance may keep their animals, and he added animal control officers will take into consideration special cases.
"A lot of it does depend on the discretionary power of the officer," Brabbin said.
Bandinel said the committee's recommendations had included keeping a clause stating individuals with significant acreage could apply to have more than four animals at their home, but the council removed it.
"We're going to have to lobby to get it back in," she said.
Another approved amendment pertaining to outdoor animals states they may only be left outside a residence unattended if the animal is on a cable line or tether that is at least 10 feet long, swivels at both ends and is attached to a leather, nylon collar or harness.
Outdoor animals must also have adequate shelter and a no-spill water and food bowl within reach.
A few of the approved amendments pertained to the reclaiming of impounded animals. One said if an impounded pet is being reclaimed for the second time in one year, the owner must pay for the animal to be microchipped by the animal control department prior to release.
Upon the third instance, the owner has 30 days to provide the animal control department proof the animal has been sterilized.
Brabbin said both changes would help animal control return more pets to their owners.
"Hopefully the sterilization of that animal will help stem the desire to get out and run," he said.
Another amendment says an individual who finds an animal must take it to animal control for registration, but if the owner does not claim it within three business days, the finder may keep the pet if he or she so desires. If not, the pet is the property of the city.
Bandinel said among the committee's recommended ordinance changes that were removed from the council's approved document was having a minimum secure enclosure requirement, something that stemmed from an incident last year. She said a German Shepherd was found in a 4- foot-by-4 foot enclosure, and the committee wanted to make sure there was a law against putting animals in too-small cages.
The committee also suggested limiting litters produced per dog to two per year per establishment to prevent puppy mills.
"If we have an ordinance in place … that makes it very difficult for them to break the rules. That's the whole purpose of having an ordinance," she said.
The city also removed a section pertaining to animal cruelty, referring to the Texas Penal Code's animal cruelty guidelines for guidance. But Bandinel said the penal code does not state those convicted of animal cruelty may no longer possess animals in the future, something the committee wanted included in the ordinance.
Brabbin said he and his department did "maintain a presence" for the council, and added that changes must happen bit by bit and committee members should keep that in mind.
"A lot of the times when you're wanting to amend an ordinance, you cannot take these giant steps to get everything where you want it," he said. "You have to baby step this process along, because if you hit everything in one fell swoop you're going to run into more backlash."
He said committees must also keep in mind ordinances may be amended at any time.
"The council has the end-all, be-all say of what gets adopted into ordinance. That doesn't mean it can't be entered in at a later date," he said.
The full list of amendments may be found on the city's website in the City Council Packet for Feb. 15.