Dog and cat ordinance denied by public safety & welfare committee

Dog and CatA proposed ordinance regarding dogs and cats was not approved at the Public Safety & Welfare Committee meeting earlier this evening.  This ordinance change called for a three-foot high fence to be erected in the yard when the dog or cat was being kept, or for the owner to be present.  The vote was unanimous.  This ordinance proposal was also pulled from the Common Council’s agenda last Wednesday by the sponsor, Alderperson Scott Gordon.

Kenosha police chief John Morrissey spoke as a citizen and in his official capacity as police chief as well.  As a citizen, he said that he didn’t understand what problem the ordinance was trying to fix.  The ordinance basically says that a person’s dog or cat can’t be tied up in the front yard unless the dog or cat is with the owner.  He stated that his own home abuts an alley.  He sees problems with this ordinance as a citizen and a taxpayer, and he urged the committee to deny it.

Then, Morrissey spoke as a staff member and as the police chief.  He stated that he felt that the ordinance needed a lot of work in order to pass.  All homes with invisible fences are not even addressed, as well as homes in older neighborhoods with alleys.  “This presents a unique issue,” he said.  “Plus, there are neighborhoods and subdivisions in the western part of the city that have covenants that don’t allow fences.  There are problems with this ordinance.  And, again, I’m not sure what problem the ordinance is trying to fix.”

Alderperson David Bogdala concurred with Morrissey.  He stated that he hosted two neighborhood meetings last week with two different associations, and this ordinance was brought up.  He stated that this ordinance conflicts with covenants on the west side.  “How will this redefine what our neighborhoods will look like?  What fence materials are mentioned?” he asked.  He expressed his reservations and issues.  He also mentioned his discussions with the Kenosha Animal Hospital and the Humane Society regarding “tethering” animals, and he said that he had serious reservations about that.

Bogdala also mentioned that he was working on an ordinance regarding animal cruelty, and that if this ordinance passed, it would be in conflict with his proposed ordinance.  He recommended denial, not deferral.  And, like Morrissey, he wanted to know what problem the ordinance was trying to fix.  He was more for coming up with workable solutions to whatever problem there was.  “This will be devastating to the neighborhoods in Kenosha,” he said.  Bogdala said later in the meeting that he was waiting for review of his proposed ordinance, and then he would be sending it to the chair for the next public safety and welfare committee meeting agenda.

Margaret Heller said that he is a resident near the South Port Beach House, and there are twenty cats in her neighborhood.  She said that she thought the ordinance was “laughable” and “silly.”

Alderperson Anthony Kennedy made a motion to defer the proposed ordinance change for 45 days.  He stated that he received a call from the primary sponsor.  He also said that, when he first saw this ordinance proposal, he was excited.  He thought it had to do with animal cruelty prevention.  But, when he read it more thoroughly, he said, “What the hell is this?”  Gordon pulled it from the Common Council agenda so that he could have more time to talk to the chief regarding some of the issues.  Kennedy said that he thought it had to do with cruelty, but it’s really just a safety issue to passersby.

Alderperson Michael Orth said that the proposed ordinance change needs a lot of work.  He said that he understands the real issue.  He spoke of his younger days as a Kenosha News paperboy, and how he steered clear of a big black dog when delivering papers.  He asked about people who live on a corner lot.  They wouldn’t have anywhere to put their dog.  “Three-foot-high fences are horrendous,” he said.  “It doesn’t fix the problem.  He said that he would support the 45-day deferral.  If the deferral was voted down, then he stated that he would vote no.

Vice chairman Chris Schwartz said that she was supporting the deferral.  Gordon pulled the ordinance to work on it further.

Alderperson Kevin Mathewson said that he agreed with Orth.  “This is not in order.  There is nothing good in it.”  He asked the police chief if he was aware of any dog-related attacks or crimes, and the police chief said that he was not.  Mathewson said that he would like to see the ordinance started over from scratch, rather than deferred.  He urged his fellow committee members to vote it down tonight.  He would rather punish responsible dog owners, and deny this ordinance change.  “I don’t want to take away the rights of property owners, dog owners,” he said.

Alderperson Rocco LaMacchia stated that he agreed with the denial.  He said that the chief doesn’t think it’s needed.  He stated that he’s against deferring it for 45 days.

Kennedy said that he wants to avoid a debate on the Common Council floor.  “Forty-five days allows us time to lobby the sponsor to pull it.  And, secondly, there should be no discussion there.  It should be done here, at the committee level.  Don’t waste the time and effort of the Common Council.  The questions should come out at the committee level, not at the Common Council.”

The vote for the 45-day deferral failed.  The vote was 3 to 2.  The motion regarding the proposed ordinance change was denied unanimously.

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UPDATE:  January 29, 2013, 2:15 pm – The writer received a call from Mayor Keith Bosman saying that there was an error in the agenda for the Public Safety & Welfare Committee Meeting.  This agenda item had been pulled from the Common Council meeting, and it should not have been referred to the committee, and it should not have appeared on the committee’s agenda.  Alderperson Scott Gordon was not ready for the item to be referred.  Bosman said that the issue was a moot point until one of the authors may decide to reintroduce it.

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