Crack down on dog licenses draws concerns, questions

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Questions and concerns about unregistered dogs and the city’s dog ordinance were topics of discussion at the Tuesday meeting of the Fort Scott City Commission.

Spurring the discussion was a social media post issued Friday afternoon by the Fort Scott Police Department that beginning Monday, “a member of the department will be going door to door in our city” checking to ensure all dogs in the city have been registered.

The post drew comments from several people with concerns such as affordability of fees, the number of dogs that can be owned, and the police department’s involvement in the issue.

The post further states that “if a dog(s) are found not to be registered, the officer will leave a notice at the residence. The notice will advice the owner to register the animal within 30 days, or a citation will be issued.”

The post urges anyone with questions to contact FSPD Capt. Shaun West or Animal Control Officer Max Daly at the police department.

City Manager Dave Martin said at the meeting he wanted to apologize to the public, as the issue was not communicated properly.

“We didn’t communicate very well on this ordinance,” he said. “We should have taken more time.”

Fort Scott resident Deborah Hall asked commissioners and city officials why the city’s ordinance on the licensing of dogs, which has been in place since 1924, is being “resurrected.”

“It’s not being resurrected,” Martin said. “It’s always been there.”

Commissioner Jim Adams said he is “proud of the effort to treat dogs more humanely.”

Hall said her concerns are people who can’t afford the fees for licensing and with “using the police force” to go door to door checking that dogs have been registered. She said she personally does not have a problem with the fee.

“How much taxpayer dollars are being used?” Hall asked.

“Well, so far, nothing,” Adams said.

Martin said it is not just the police force, but also the city codes department that are being used to address problems with dogs.

Mayor JoLynne Mitchell said the situation could be a “safety issue” affecting citizens as well as police officers. Adams said the main issues are enforcement and safety.

“But they can report it,” Hall said.

“They can’t report it if the dog is not registered,” Mitchell said.

The FSPD social media post also attached the city’s ordinance on registration, impoundment or destruction of dogs, as well as associated fees. The ordinance states that registration of a neutered male dog or spayed female dog is $3. For an unneutered male dog or unspayed female dog, the fee is $5. The fee is $7 for each dog that is caught and impounded and is to be collected from the person redeeming such dog.

“For receiving and keeping each dog from the time delivered to the city until redeemed or destroyed, the pound keeper shall receive $3 per day, to be collected and taxed as costs from the party redeeming the same,” the ordinance states. “For the killing of each dog, the person performing such service shall receive a fee of not more than $5 to be paid by the city.”

The ordinance also states that all fees collected under the section are to be turned over to the city clerk for deposit in the city’s general fund.

Martin said money from fees goes to the city’s general fund, but the city is not “making a lot” through the fees.

The post also had attached the kennel zoning regulation for the city, which states that three dogs are the maximum a person can have.

The regulation defines a kennel as “any place, area, building or structure where dogs (including those under one year of age) and other domesticated animals are boarded, housed, cared for, fed or trained by other than the owner, or where more than three domesticated animals, six months of age or older, are kept for purposes of breeding, raising or as pets.”

West said at the meeting the purpose of the social media post was to inform people about the city’s ordinance and make sure dog owners have registered their animals.

“We’ve tried to improve animal control services,” he said. “We have to have the public’s help … we’re wanting to be customer friendly, and use existing manpower.”

He said the idea was to communicate the 30-day notice about registering dogs and time allowed for renewal.

“We don’t want this to be a hardship on responsible pet owners, but we want the same accountability for everyone,” West said.

West also said the social media post was not meant to indicate a deadline for people to act.

“We want to identify the owners who have complied with the law and the dog is safe and had its shots,” he said.

Martin said city officials have had recent meetings with Fort Scott Post Office officials, who have voiced unhappiness with difficulties in delivering mail in certain areas of town. He also said goals for the city are “accountability” for dog owners and “less dogs for the city pound.”