Casper City Council Approves Amended Animal Control Ordinance
Casper's proposed animal care and control ordinance moved closer to enactment after the City Council unanimously approved an amended version on second reading Tuesday.
The amended version, agreed to last week at a council work session, would not require animals to be behind a fence or tethered in a front yard, but must be under the "direct supervision" -- a direct line of sight with nothing in between, even a window -- of the owner.
Council member Shawn Johnson said this considers both private property rights and public safety.
"I think we're going to strike a balance," Johnson said.
The effort for a wholesale revision of the ordinance began in late October, when council member Chris Walsh submitted a report citing data collected at Metro Animal Services (his wife is Metro's director) from Jan. 1, 2017, to June 27, 2018.
There were 721 reported animal attacks or bites that had occurred in Casper, or more than one per day, Walsh wrote.
Of that total, 539 were bites to people, many of whom required medical attention, concerns about rabies and quarantines for the animals. The rest were animal-on-animal attacks, mostly dogs against dogs, Walsh wrote.
The original revision mandated all animals in public be on a leash, or if in a front yard be tethered or behind a fence.
Mayor Charlie Powell said after the hearing that a lot of people objected to that, citing their experiences that their dogs posed no threat and they should be able to play with their dogs in their front yard.
"So we made a change that basically defined the term, 'direct supervision,' and 'direct supervision' means that the owner is with the dog and physically close enough to maintain contact and maintain control over the actions of the dog," Powell said.
Council wants to try this and see if the compromise works and reduces the number of incidents in which people have felt uncomfortable when they are on sidewalks and in other public places, he added.
During the public hearing, a group of people approached the microphone to voice their concerns about animals left outside in adverse weather.
Sandra Materi spoke for the group and said the proposed ordinance would leave it to a law enforcement officer's discretion to determine whether the animal was suffering.
Walsh responded that the anti-cruelty provisions in the proposed ordinance were written broadly to cover such possibilities.
Johnson added that ordinances can be written too specifically, and officers should have the discretion in enforcing them. He compared an officer's discretion writing a speeding ticket to a motorist to an animal control officer evaluating whether a dog is suffering in adverse weather.
But one of the members of the group, Brooke Aguilera, later said those scenarios are not comparable, because the suffering dog could die in freezing weather.
Her group, Aguilera added, was successful in changes in the proposed ordinance to require that animals must not be tethered for more than two hours a day.
However, they were not successful in asking that the ordinance require dogs to have close access to a permanent structure for shelter, she said.
The other major proposed action under consideration Tuesday, a proposed liquor license ordinance, was tabled by the Council until Feb. 19. The proposal drew fire from the public and some council members that it could not only penalize businesses that over-serve customers, but could apply to anyone hosting a party at a private residence.
While not as contentious, the Council responded to some concerns from the public that the speed limit on East Second Street near the Wyoming Medical Center should be lowered to 20 mph from 30 mph.
After a public hearing to change the Casper Municipal Code during which no one spoke, several council members said the proposal had a problem in that the speed limit would rise to 30 mph between McKinley and Park streets and then immediately drop to 20 mph in the downtown area.
The Council amended the proposed change to reduce the speed limit to 20 mph on East Second Street from Conwell to downtown, and passed the change on first reading.