ESCANABA - Escanaba's animal ordinance was amended to address a wider scope of animal-related concerns, as well as change offenses from misdemeanors to civil infractions, as recommended by public safety. The action was taken at this week's Ecanaba City Council meeting.
"Most of the ordinance mirrors what is already in effect with the Delta County Animal Control ordinances," stated Escanaba Public Safety Director Ken Vanderlinden.
An example of one change is the city limits the number of animals allowed per household to four cats (over four months of age) to be consistent with the county rules, he said. He also noted the county no longer has an animal control officer, which places greater animal enforcement responsibilities on city police.
Vanderlinden told council the animal ordinance amendment was a result of concerns from public safety officers.
"They wanted a civil infraction they could use to enforce animal control incidents rather than citing our citizens with either a state or county misdemeanor," stated Vanderlinden.
The local police department receives animal-related complaints frequently; as of Oct. 30, there was a total of 377 complaints for the year-to-date, he said.
Vanderlinden offered council three reasons why the city's ordinance should be amended:
The ordinance needs to address more than kennels, poultry, and animal defecation.
The majority of the offenses need to be decriminalized from misdemeanors to civil offenses.
The city would recoup more fine monies for civil offenses compared to misdemeanors.
Thursday's ordinance amendment was approved in a 5-0 council vote following a second reading and public hearing on the agenda item.
During the public hearing, comment was received from citizen James Hellermann who said the document was too lengthy and should undergo more review. He also suggested another public hearing be held due to a change being made to the ordinance on Thursday.
Council deleted a section stating it would be unlawful for a person to refuse to show police any cats in his or her home.
City Manager Jim O'Toole explained that the subtraction was recommended following administration discussion with the county prosecutor and the city attorney.
City Attorney Ralph "BK" Peterson told council Thursday, the deletion was not a substantial change to the amendment and did not require the hearing process to start over.
During the meeting, council member Pete Baker made a motion to table action on the animal ordinance amendment because of the alteration and so people would have more time to review the document. Council defeated that motion 4-1.
Additional public comment on the amendment came from Ralph Blasier, who was elected by voters Tuesday to fill two years remaining on a partial council term. Blasier praised council on the animal ordinance.
The city ordinance pertains to dogs, cats, wild animals, domestic animals, exotic animals, birds and livestock. The document outlines owners' responsibilities as well as police officers' duties in relation to animal control.
The animal ordinance can be viewed on the city's website at www.escanaba.org.