MT. VERNON — Residents spoke out on a proposed ordinance to strengthen animal control laws within the city.
The ordinance, presented Monday to the City Council, would strengthen state laws and the current ordinances on the books, according to city attorney David Leggans. City Manager Ron Neibert told the council the ordinance would require dogs to be on a leash, in a pet carrier or in a vehicle for transport when not on the owner's property. In addition, the ordinance addresses neglect and mistreatment of pets.
"I think a number of us believed that we already had a leash law in the city," said city councilman David Wood. "Then we discovered we really don't."
Leggans said the existing ordinance stated owners should have their animals "under control" which left a lot of room for defining what that meant.
"An owner can say their dog is under control because he can call it," Leggans explained. "Then the dog sees another dog, or a person and goes after them. Is the dog still under control? ... It's an enforcement issue."
Resident Donald Irvin started the public input on the issue by addressing cats, saying it is wrong not to expect cats not to wander from property to property.
"I think you should omit a cat from those who roam," Irvin said. "They are under a mandate from nature and God to hunt rodents. Let the cats be, let them do their thing."
Leggans explained the existing ordinance includes cats, and states cats are not supposed to be allowed to run loose under existing city ordinances.
"To my knowledge, no one has ever been prosecuted for a cat running at large," Leggans said, a statement backed by Mt. Vernon Police Chief Chris Mendenall.
"All animals have to be included in an animal control ordinance," Mendenall said. "If someone allows a cat to dig in a neighbor's flower beds, and go in the neighbor's yard, it can become a nuisance. This allows the resident to file a complaint."
Neibert said the ordinance has been reviewed by Martin Boykin of Jefferson County Animal Control, which works with the city in enforcing animal control ordinances. Neibert said Boykin approved of the ordinance and would be able to enforce it.
Resident Shirley Riley spoke to the council in support of the ordinance, giving her personal experience with neighboring dogs which she described as "aggressive and vicious."
She said the dogs are large and used as guard dogs by a neighbor, and lunge at a rickety, short fence bordering her property.
"When my 70-year-old husband tries to mow the yard, the dogs charge this rickety mess," Riley said of the fence. "No one should be afraid to mow their own yard or walk in their own yard."
The ordinance will be presented for a second reading at the next City Council meeting.
In other business, the council:
Approved a bid from Kenneth Hails Excavating, Inc., for $76,200 to demolish 10 dangerous and dilapidated structures;
Approved a bid of $44,650 from Trikote, LLC to paint the Times Square Mall Water Tower;
Approved a request to seek bids for a wayfinding program;
Approved an ordinance to amend the Industrial Park Conservation Area Tax Increment Finance District to allow for residential development;
Tabled a second reading on an ordinance defining what constitutes a kennel and the number of animals allowed on property;
Amended the number of liquor licenses available to allow for a package liquor store;
Approved a request to apply for an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant to expand a bike trail on Veterans Memorial Drive from 28th Street to 10th Street; and
Approved the appointment of Chris Mendenall to the Police Pension Board to replace Curt Mowrer.