Mt. Vernon Register-News

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August 20, 2013

Public speaks to animal issues

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."

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