By Anthony Scott
Killeen Daily Herald
A proposed ordinance to require microchip implants in all pets in Killeen was called into question at the Killeen City Council's Tuesday evening workshop, with the issue dividing council members.
Mayor Tim Hancock silenced Councilman Ernest Wilkerson several times to keep order after repeated interruptions while Councilman Juan Rivera expressed his support for making microchips mandatory.
"I also love animals, but I also love my freedom and my choice to choose," Wilkerson said, interrupting Rivera, who was comparing his love for his animals to that of children.
Currently state law mandates that shelters implant microchips into adopted pets and Fort Hood already mandates microchips in pets. The new law would go beyond this and make microchips mandatory for all cats, dogs and ferrets in the city of Killeen, said Animal Control Manager Stacie Sherva.
According to the council agenda packet, the idea for the mandatory implants came from the Animal Advisory Committee, which recommended the change after it was given the task of reviewing and revising the current animal ordinance. Part of its goals were to examine the number of animals within the city that cannot be identified when found by Animal Control.
Sherva said the microchips can be used to reunite animals with their owners. The implants can cost between $15 to $75 and are about the size of a grain of rice. While no one was arguing against the benefits of placing microchips inside pets, it was the ordinance's mandatory nature that created a divide.
"It's my pet; I pay for it," Wilkerson said during the meeting. "I just feel you're intruding on my rights, demanding that I chip (my pet)."
Wilkerson was not alone in questioning the mandate. He was joined by Mayor Pro Tem Scott Cosper and Councilman Billy Workman, who said after the meeting that he concurred with Wilkerson.
"I feel like a mandate takes it too far," Cosper said. "I understand all of the pros, but I would prefer a voluntary program or some sort of awareness program to encourage people to buy into it."
Cosper said he could still be persuaded on the issue.
The mandate will come with legal punishments for those who don't comply, with a possible fine up to $500 to be decided by a judge, Sherva said.
No time line for residential compliance has been defined; however City Attorney Kathy Davis said the earliest the city could enforce the ordinance would likely be Thursday after the council's meeting and vote.
Sherva said the city's old system of animal tags had proven ineffective as a program, with data having been lost or never entered into Animal Control's computer system.
About 12 residents were in attendance, in addition to about 12 staff, at the Utility Collections Building.
A final vote on the microchips is expected at the next council meeting, Tuesday at City Hall.
Contact Anthony Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.