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File #: ID 2017-109    Version: 1 Name:
Type: Update/Presentation Item Status: Filed
File created: 11/30/2017 In control: Town Council
On agenda: 12/5/2017 Final action: 12/5/2017
Title: Update: Animal Code
Related files: DIR 2019-014, ORD 2019-017

To:                     Honorable Mayor and Members of Town Council

 

From:                     Heidi Hugdahl, Deputy Town Attorney

 

Thru:                          David L. Corliss, Town Manager

 

Title

Update:  Animal Code

Body

________________________________________________________________________________

 

Executive Summary

 

Although the Town’s Animal Code has undergone revisions to specific sections, the Town has not undertaken a comprehensive review or update of this section of the Castle Rock Municipal Code in over 15 years. Given developments related to changes in the law, as well as an evolution of philosophical and practical considerations, the former Town Clerk, Municipal Prosecutor, Clerk of the Court, Animal Control Officers (and from time-to-time a Sergeant from the Police Department), along with representatives from the Town Attorney’s Office met over the course of last year to discuss the current Code and possible amendments.  As part of the process, we reviewed scholarly articles, codes from multiple jurisdictions within the State and outside the State. We reviewed data compiled by the Castle Rock Police Department and other agencies, and we met with a representative from the Department of Agriculture, who is the Pet Animal Care Facilities Act (PACFA) Administrator.  

 

Since this undertaking, the Town has received over 400 comments, online, through the comment forms at the Open House, in separate letter or email and we have fielded telephone calls related to the topics discussed below.  We also note the Open House, earlier in the year, was very well received and attended-those present were interested and engaged in a wide variety of topics. Communications also posted an online link where residents and non-residents could provide feedback.

 

The team anticipates bringing an ordinance forward where the following salient recommendations will be made for Council’s consideration: 

 

► lift the breed specific ban, and instead move to a two-tiered dangerous and potentially dangerous dog provision;

 

► keep the licensing requirement intact;

 

►include definitive references to service and emotional support animals;

 

►engraft provisions related to chickens and bees;

 

►better define limitations related to the permissible number of animals (with a focus on dogs and cats) while making some adjustments to the age provisions to address fosters and rescues, and incorporating language concerning smaller mammals;

 

►address prohibitions related to feeding wildlife (with the exclusion of birds);

 

►more specifically address exotic and wild animals;

 

►incorporate new state and federal regulations related to PACFA, primarily concerning kennels, rescues, fosters, pet spas and daycares; and

 

► update the code’s penalty and enforcement provisions.

 

We envision proceeding with another Open House toward the end of January where it is our intention to introduce the proposed amendments to the Town’s Animal Code.

                     

Lifting the breed specific ban 

 

By far, we received the most public input related to this issue. It is also an issue where a number of individuals seem to hold strong beliefs-whether for or against lifting the breed specific ban.  Although it is a bit of a challenge to categorize the responses and distill residents, from non-residents, as well as those that are in favor of or against lifting the breed specific ban, taking the feedback at face value, we received just under 300 comments on this topic alone.  There were approximately 209 comments from residents, 36 comments from non-residents, and 76 comments where it could not be determined if they were residents or not. Of those that represented themselves as residents, approximately 128 were in favor of lifting the ban, and 30 were in favor of keeping the ban in place.  (We note that some of the comments may have been submitted by the same people in multiple formats).  In any event, although we considered the feedback, it was not dispositive. We also took into consideration the practical and legal implications of keeping the ban in place and the challenges attendant to enforcing the ban.    

 

The Code’s Pit Bull ban was implemented in 1992. Currently, Denver and Aurora have some form of breed ban in place, and most recently, Lone Tree adopted such a ban.  Parker, Centennial, and Douglas County do not have breed specific bans. There are many practical challenges associated with breed specific bans including increasingly difficult to make determinations as to whether a dog meets the breed specific criteria. Currently, a dog must undergo a 27 point inspection that takes about an hour. There is the possibility that a dog might look like a Pit Bull, but genetically have few Pit Bull markers, or a dog might not look like a Pit Bull, via the physical characteristics, but have a significant amount of DNA profile associated with the breed. (A Pit Bull is not even defined by the American Kennel Club). Furthermore, although available, DNA testing is costly and takes 6 weeks.  Significantly, any visual inspection of a particular dog has nothing to do with the animal’s actual behavior.  What is more, any such ban would generally require exclusions related to service dogs, which perpetually results in significant staff time to wade through the legal considerations related to service dogs and emotional support animals.  Increasingly, successful legal challenges are being made to breed bans across the country.  What is more, there are already a number of Pit Bulls (pure and part) currently in the Town, making enforcement increasingly challenging and, at times, inconsistent. Additionally, enforcement actions under the current Code are exceedingly difficult and may make certain situations ripe for additional legal challenges.  Finally, focusing on the breed, rather than the behavior, makes it difficult for current and prospective, visitors, Code Enforcement Officers, our Municipal Prosecutors and the Judge.

 

Moving to a two-tiered system dangerous and potentially dangerous dog                      

 

Our team is making the recommendation that we move to a two-tiered (dangerous and potentially dangerous) system that will focus on addressing the behavior, instead of the breed, and dispose of the breed specific ban. Moving to such a system will allow the Prosecutor, Animal Control Officers, and the Judge the ability to address each situation on a case-by-case basis.  And because it is not breed specific, it will permit a more flexible application which will better ensure that a number of factors are taken into consideration, such as the animal’s history, the circumstances of any incident, and the behavior, instead of how the animal looks. Under the current Code, if a dog bites (there is very little leeway for those involved) generally resulting in the dog being removed from the Town or destroyed.

 

Licensing

 

Under the current Code, dogs are required to be licensed, but relatively few are.  (Approximately 3% of the estimated 20,000 dogs in Castle Rock are licensed). We will be making the recommendation for an aggressive campaign/community outreach, combined with more aggressive enforcement to better ensure that all dogs are licensed.  Additionally, further amendments to the Code will be made such as making licensing available online.  We may have a tiered system (associated with the costs related to licensing) designed to encourage spaying and neutering. We see licensing as an important component related to public safety, better ensuring dogs can be rehomed, and that they are current on their vaccinations, with an emphasis on rabies shots.   

 

Service and Emotional Support Animals

 

It is our intention to incorporate new and more definitive language to address service and emotional support animals, consistent with state and federal requirements.

 

Chickens and Bees

 

Our intent is to allow chickens (we have allowed chickens under our current code, but we have simply considered them as part of the total number of animals permitted in a residence). The changes we will be proposing will address the permitted number of chickens, cooping requirements, humane treatment, as well as the prohibition of roosters.  We will also be making the recommendation to move the bees section in our Code from Zoning into the Animal Code, and additional changes will be suggested related to beekeeping activities.  

 

 

 

Number of Animals

 

Currently, our Code limits the total number of animals, but we will be suggesting changes that specifically limit the number of dogs and cats (there will be language to address rescues, fosters, and service animals), and generally exclude other smaller mammals such as gerbils, mice, hamsters, ferrets, etc.

 

Prohibit Feeding Wildlife Feeding

 

It is our intention to bring suggested Code amendments forward that will address the feeding of wildlife (excluding birds) such as skunks, deer, and raccoons.

 

Exotic or Wild Animals

 

We will be proposing additional modifications related to the types and size of certain exotic animals and we will be suggesting amendments related to provisions concerning wild animals. 

 

Kennels, Rescue, Foster, Breeder, Pet Shops and Pet Spas/Daycares

 

It is our intention to generally keep provisions of our current Code, but we will be making a recommendation to incorporate minor revisions to include new state and federal regulations related to PACFA. It is envisioned the Town’s Code Enforcement Officers will work closely and in conjunction with the State to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations. 

 

Enforcement and Penalty Provisions  

 

The amendments we will be bringing forward will also address a variety of enforcement actions and concomitant penalty assessments. We are also looking at additional enforcement mechanisms related to leashing dogs and picking up pet waste - particularly in recreational facilities, on trails and open space, as well as, addressing nuisance concerns, and the imposition and enforcement of fines including the processing/handling through the municipal court system.  

 

Home Owner Associations

 

We are cognizant of the fact that HOA’s may have requirements that will differ from those we will be suggesting (for example some HOA’s might prohibit chickens or have a different limit on the number of dogs or cats).  Any Code changes would not overrule more restrictive HOA regulations which may exist in some neighborhoods.