Pet Registration in Amarillo—A Code Enforcement Stickee Wickee?

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My last column touched on whether Amarillo pet owners should be required to register their dogs and cats. I’ve given more thought to this topic and I see a “load of trouble” in the making should a pet registration ordinance actually become law.

Amarillo has a population of almost 200,000. According to one census, there are about 74,000 households in Amarillo, and, of that number around 21000 live alone. There is no data on the number of dogs and cats in Amarillo. But if we guess that roughly one-third of Amarillo household have at least one pet, dog or cat, this means that there may be roughly 24,000 dogs and cats in Amarillo. This may seem high, but on my street alone, one neighbor has 6 dogs. So assuming pet registration has a “revenue impact” reason this would mean that if pet owners are required to pay $10 for each pet this would mean $240,000 in revenue to the City of Amarillo. And, this would mean $240,000 each year since the pets would be registered each year. This is not a lot of money. But I see a code enforcement nightmare on the horizon if the ordinance passes.

Right now, all over Amarillo, scores of yards have weeds and debris that violate the Amarillo City Code. Within two blocks of my house, there are at least 6 houses and 4 vacant lots with weeds that are over 2 feet tall. The owners of these homes and vacant lots operate under voluntary compliance. This means that the owners of these homes and vacant lots have a duty to keep their property free of tall weeds and debris. The City really does not have the resources to “watch over” these people. The most that the City can do is wait for a complaint about these weeds and debris and then send the owner some type of notification to correct the problem. If the owners fails to do so the City of has a list of mowing contractors who will then go out and correct the problem for a fee. The city pays the contractor and then places a lien on the property. Still, all over Amarillo there are scores of vacant lots, yards and alleys that are currently in violation of the city code.

Enter yet another code enforcement responsibility in the form of registering dogs and cats. This too will be a voluntary compliance ordinance—meaning it will be up to the pet’s owners to voluntarily get the rabies vaccination certificate and then register their pets. I’m guessing that this is not likely to happen for a number of reasons. The first reason is that people are sick of municipalities always getting in their pocket books. It seems these cash strapped cities are looking for money under every rock they can turn over and people are fed up. Secondly, Amarillo is a low wage town. People are already struggling to take care of the necessities, housing, food, caring for children. In fact, some Amarillo residents are already giving up their pets because they can no longer afford to care for them. Check out “Free” any day on Amarillo Craigslist and count the number of dogs and cats that people are trying to get rid of. And, if the City places yet another layer of expense on owners, the animal shelters will be over-run with people being forced to give up their pets. Third, trying to enforce the lack of registration of pets will become a nightmare for the city. The only way to know if a pet is not registered is if the pet ends up at a pet shelter and the owner has to redeem it—and then pay for not having a license.

There is yet another issue facing Amarillo and I have written about this before—dead trees. All over Amarillo there are thousands of dead trees—waiting to fall when the roots eventually rot. These dead trees hang over streets all over town yet there is no “dead tree removal” ordinance in Amarillo. Why not? I think it’s because there is no immediate “revenue impact” otherwise known as “pay the city some money.” Removing dead trees is a safety issue that requires property owners to either remove the trees or hire someone to remove them. The city gets no direct revenue benefit. Not the case with pet licenses. Pets licenses mean pay the city some money right now. I think we need all the thousands of dead trees all over Amarillo removed before we need the licensing of pets. But, as I said, the Amarillo City Commission will get an earful when from pet owners. Oh, an update on the big German Sheppard terrorizing my street. Yesterday two animal control trucks drove up trying to catch this menace after he went after a kid walking down the street. I watched as the dog weaseled his way back through a hole in the fence. Animal control found the hole in the fence, went to their truck and got a hammer. They then fixed the fence to keep the dog from getting out again. They also left some type of note on the front door. Good job Animal Control. Maybe I can go to my mailbox now without carrying a big ole stick.

Well, I spoke too soon, that dad-blamed German Sheppard is out again terrorizing us. Just snapped this pic after I heard ruckus outside—dog is on the prowl—this time he broke out with his buddy. Would pet registration resolve this situation?

Copyright 2014 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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