The Pulaski County Quorum Court halted an initiative to broaden pet licensing after an outcry from residents of the unincorporated areas of the county.
The proposed rule would require that veterinarians license animals when they vaccinate the pets for rabies, which state law already mandates. The law would affect people who live in unincorporated Pulaski County.
At the Quorum Court meeting Tuesday, Justice of the Peace Julie Blackwood moved to push the ordinance back to the agenda committee, which will continue discussing it before deciding whether to send it back to the full Quorum Court.
Seventeen Pulaski County residents signed up to speak in opposition to the proposal. After hearing that the justices of the peace decided against voting on the ordinance Tuesday, four people decided not to speak.
Debbie Howell, the president of the Humane Society of Pulaski County, said that although she supports legislation to stop people from abandoning their pets outside the city limits, she does not think the ordinance would solve the problem.
Most of the residents expressed that they thought the law would unfairly tax good pet owners but would not efficiently regulate owners who don't take care of their animals.
"They are out there," Teri Drennan said about animals abandoned in rural Pulaski County. "My neighbor and I pick them up all the time, get them cleaned up, take them to vets. They are out there. However, I feel like this is something that is only going to affect those of us who are responsible pet owners because the people who are not responsible pet owners, they're not going to go have their dogs licensed and registered."
Echoing Justice of the Peace Doug Reed's concerns from the Jan. 8 meeting, Scott Moon said the tax would put a burden on him and his neighbors.
"It's getting to the point now where I've got to say enough on the taxes and the fees," Moon said.
Butch Eggens -- who lives in western Pulaski County and owns Wye Mountain Flowers and Berries, which has a petting zoo -- was concerned about the lack of clarity about which animals would need to be registered.
The ordinance would apply to dogs, cats and other warm-blooded pets that can get rabies. Although the ordinance does exclude livestock, Eggens questioned whether the law would apply to his petting zoo animals. He also pointed out that the law could reasonably apply to rodents and other animals.
"So that means your kid's hamsters, your gerbils, your guinea pigs, all of that, so if that's the case, that means you're going to have to go spend another $35 on each one of your hamsters," he said. "It may not have been the intent, but it's there, and it could be enforced if it had to be."
Licenses for unsterilized animals would cost $35 for yearly and three-year licenses.
For sterilized animals, the licenses would cost $5 for lifetime, $10 for yearly and $10 for three-year licenses. To acquire lifetime licenses, the owners would have to microchip the animals.
Owners who do not sterilize their animals would not be eligible for the lifetime license.
Resident Marcella Grimmett called the difference in price for animals that have been sterilized and animals that haven't unfair. Grimmett said people often cannot afford to sterilize their animals, but they should not be kept from having an animal.
"Even poor people deserve to have an animal," Grimmett said.
Blackwood said she sponsored the ordinance to more easily reunite lost pets with their owners.
"They do get lost and get out, and that's so, so sad, and it's a benefit to the owner if we can return them to them," Blackwood said.
Pulaski County already requires that residents put tags on their animals. The tags should have the owners' names and phone numbers or addresses, Fogleman said.
Fogleman said major Pulaski County cities already require that animals be tagged.
Metro on 01/23/2019
Print Headline: Reaction halts pet licensing; justices of the peace in Pulaski County send matter for more study