The Park Record editorial, June 9-11, 2010 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, June 9-11, 2010

New pet ordinance won't solve age-old problem

Two dogs or six dogs, their compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood depends on their owners not the dog catcher.

The Summit County Council recently adopted an ordinance tightening restrictions on people in the Snyderville Basin who own four or more dogs or cats. The new rule requires them to obtain a conditional-use permit and was put in place as a response to citizen complaints about barking and other pet-related disturbances.

But the howling that has ensued (from pet owners, not their pets) has the council thinking about recanting. The conditional-use process is arduous and is usually reserved for permitting commercial uses like rock crushing, not pet ownership.

In fact, the council’s action is unnecessary since a similar rule is already in place countywide. According to existing rules, anyone who owns four or more dogs must obtain a private kennel license. Getting a kennel permit, though, is not as complicated as the conditional-use application process.

The underlying controversy, some insist, is that the animal control rule is not evenly enforced. But the new law does not solve that problem.

The county council (if you will excuse the expression) really stepped in it this time. Any one of their predecessors on the former county commission would have steered them away from trying to pass legislation related to people’s pets.

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Summit County residents have never appreciated being told what do with their animals. Ranchers, for instance, have always insisted on exemptions for their "working" dogs. Woe to the politician who suggests times have changed and ranch dogs, like everyone else’s dogs should also be licensed.

The county council’s original intention — to be responsive to citizen complaints — was honorable and their willingness to rethink the issue is also admirable.

Now that they have heard from their dog-owning constituents the council should revoke the new Snyderville Basin Development Code amendment that singles out West Side dog and cat owners. Instead, they should find ways to beef up enforcement of the existing countywide rules pertaining to dogs. And if they are feeling particularly brave they should put an end to the archaic exemptions for agricultural dogs.

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