Seligman police chief appeals to council, wants city's pet policy changed
Loose animal complaints causing problems in city
Due to complaints by residents, Seligman Police Chief Terry Burgess would like to see a new policy in the city to deal with pets that are running loose, causing problems or potentially posing a danger to others in the city.
"Simply writing tickets does not solve the problem," Burgess said of the current law in the city. "If pets are required to have a tag, and if there's a complaint, they can be returned to their owner and a citation be issued."
Otherwise, the animal must be taken to Haven of the Ozarks, and the city must pay for any associated costs, including a charge to drop off an animal. If the owner is known, they can be held responsible for costs. The city is picking up the tab to retreive the animal, transport it to Haven, which is located in Exeter, and pay the fees. Additionally, the judge who hears animal control cases, Burgess said, will not sign a kill order for repeat offender-type scenarios, and Haven does not euthanize. Therefore, Burgess is looking for a way to actually enforce the current policy in place within the city, or create a new policy, to stop or lessen the problems to begin with.
For instance, if residents knew they had to pay pound fees out of their own pockets, or other punitive measures were assessed against them for failure to control their animal, perhaps the problem would stop, Burgess said.
In his appeal to the City Council, Burgess said the Missouri Municipal League, an organization that seeks to strengthen cities through unity and cooperation for the purpose of improving government and administration, has policies outlining certain restrictions for cats and dogs.
"We have an animal-at-large policy now," said Brian Nichols, Seligman city clerk. "For instance, if it's off its leash, the owner can receive a citation. Or, if you fail to maintain control of your animal and it's deemed an animal neglect violation.
"Technically, two tickets could be issued. The first time would be the judge letting the owner off with court costs, of course officers give a warning, too. After that, the fine could be up to $500. It's up to the judge.
"With our current citation, if the owner won't comply, the next step is to impound the animal. But, we don't have a pound. We did away with ours about three years ago because of the cost. So, we'll see where it goes from that. If something was to change, he can draft an idea and bring it to the board."
Burgess said he may do that, but right now is just trying to get feedback.
Nichols said the aldermen's collective opinion on the issue was not favorable because the city already has an ordinance in place, and because of concerns of additional cost and responsibility to the city.
"Every mayor in this area has tried to come up with a solution to this problem," said Robert Hughes, alderman and mayor pro tem. "I'm not disagreeing that we have to do something, but we have to realize we're taking on an added responsibility."
Alderman Gerald Harling agreed with Hughes.
"We got into that situation before and it just costs us more and more money," he said.