One of my goals this year is to work on updating the animal section of our municipal code. It was last updated in 2005 and since then we have seen several issues with the wording of certain codes and the enforcement of others. We will be looking to clear these up and make the enforcement process simpler and clearer.
Updating legal codes is a process as you can imagine. Everyone has a different opinion of what the rules should say. Should animals be labeled potentially dangerous after just one incident or not until the second? Should we limit the number of pets? How many is reasonable? How do you define adequate care? People think that everyone should be required to care for their pets to their personal standards but that is not actually reasonable – and extremely variable. There are lots of grey areas when you enter the legal arena, that’s for sure!
Once we have a basic outline of what our committee proposes, it will go through several review panels and up to the city attorney to make sure everything is worded properly and that the laws would stand up to scrutiny and challenges. There will also be opportunities for the public to give input so if this is something that interests you, please pay attention to announcements inviting public input (check the shelter’s Facebook page for notifications). You can read the current codes on the city’s website: rpcity.org. The animal codes are under Title 6.
We also need to include all the updates to the state codes to make sure we are in compliance – there’s been a lot of changes in the last 13 years. The frustrating thing about writing codes is that as fast as you can write them, people are figuring out how to get around them. Pet stores can only sell dogs, cats and rabbits from shelters and official rescue groups. This was meant to put the horrible “puppy mills” out of business. But they are smarter than the lawmakers. Before the law was even in place there were suddenly a bunch of new “rescue” groups popping up. Funny thing, some of them had board members that were the owners of puppy mills. You can see where this is going.
It’s so hard to make sure that a law really accomplishes what the intent was. That it affects those it should and not inadvertently negatively impacts others. Sometimes you can’t foresee the difficulties in enforcing a law until you’ve lived with it for a while. Which is why it is necessary to regularly review and update the codes. It’s a challenge I’ve accepted and hope the results are an improvement over what we currently have!
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed 1-6:30; Thurs.-Fri.-Sat. 1-5:30; Sun. 1-4:30.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.