By Robert Nathan
Killeen Daily Herald
After ongoing discussions, the city's animal control ordinance has been amended, placing more emphasis on holding Killeen pet owners responsible for their animals' behavior.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted the proposed amendments, which adjust the ordinance fee schedule and clarify existing language, after several months of public feedback concerning dog bites and related problems.
"By being able to hold them responsible – either by using code enforcement, regular police officers or the Animal Control enforcement officers – we should have a greater degree of responsibility, which should increase the safety of the citizens regardless of where they are," Councilman Bob Hausmann said.
Hausmann led the city's Animal Advisory Committee on the proposed changes.
The amended ordinance establishes a microchipping requirement for any animal reclaimed or adopted out by Animal Control. Any vicious or dangerous animal also has the microchipping requirement.
The revised ordinance establishes a requirement to have domestic animals adequately restrained when in public areas. It also establishes a breeder permit requirement. Any person who breeds animals for sale will be required to obtain a permit for each litter within 30 days of the birth of the litter. A permit may be obtained for up to two litters per year per household.
The ordinance amendments focused primarily on dogs because of the number of complaints received by Animal Control and the police department.
The changes to the ordinance are "going to make it easier to enforce some sections that were revised," said Debbie Neal, the committee's Animal Control representative during a previous interview.
The committee had abandoned a proposal to increase the registration fee for non-sterilized dogs from $10 to $100. Some committee members previously said dogs that are not spayed or neutered are aggressive and are often dangerous.
Thus, committee members considered asking the City Council to raise the animal registration fee because they believed it would have encouraged owners to take extra precautions, such as sterilizing their dogs.
Killeen residents voiced their feelings about the proposed fee increases during a public hearing in August. Some residents urged the committee to hold pet owners who violate city ordinaces responsible rather than to punish responsible pet owners.
"What right do they have to encourage me to sterilize an animal?" Killeen resident Natalie Pittman asked, shortly after the Aug. 3 hearing. "I think it is outrageous and it is penalizing the wrong people," she said.
During the discussion of possible ordinance changes during the past six months, the committee chose not to revise the ordinance by singling out specific breeds to comply with state law, Hausmann said.
He said research shows that some dogs do more damage than the stereotypically dangerous dog breeds.
A series of events earlier this year brought about the need for revisions, Hausmann said. Many residents complained to different council members about the need to control dangerous dogs.
Hausmann noted that between 30 and 40 dog bites are reported monthly in Killeen.
The issue was brought before the City Council because of a proposal other Texas cities were considering to regulate dangerous animals.
Former Councilman Eddie Vale Jr. brought the issue before the council during an April workshop. He discussed specific dog breeds that exhibit dangerous behavior.
Citing information from various Web sites during the April workshop, Vale said dog attacks are the second-most recurring reason for hospital emergency room visits. He said pit bulls and Rottweilers are responsible for more deaths than all other breeds combined.
"It has been something that has been discussed rather vividly all the way throughout the state of Texas and several other states as well," Hausmann said. "That's the reason why we went out and tried to get some other information from other states as well in terms of what they were doing."
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