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City and county officials want stricter animal laws

BY HOLLY HINES | JUNE 12, 2009 7:26 AM

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City and county officials and Iowa City residents agree on one thing: The current animal ordinances in place are no longer sufficient.

Iowa City resident Stacey Driscoll wants a change that would allow local residents to keep chickens in their backyards, for example.

But for the most part, officials want to tighten the rules.

Mischa Goodman, the director of Iowa City Animal Services, said animal control has received an increased number of calls in the past two years. She cited cases of incidents of aggressive behavior — such as animal bites — and animal neglect as the primary causes for those reports.

In one extreme case, 58 dogs, 12 goats, and a goose were found in Solon suffering neglect.
“If someone was doing regular animal control, could situations like this have been prevented?” Goodman said.

Johnson County Supervisor Sally Stutsman noted the county has received more complaints as well.

Exotic animal problems has been a primary concern, she said. Residents keeping such animals as wolves and caimans — reptiles similar to alligators — have caused problems in the past, she said.
“We really don’t have any ordinances to deal with these issues,” she said.

Goodman suggested an ordinance addressing dangerous animals is needed at the county level. Currently, section 351 of the Code of Iowa addresses issues with dogs and other animals, such as rabies vaccinations, dogs running loose, and owners’ duty to report attacks.

Goodman said more resources would be required to enforce changing animal laws.

Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said he hasn’t noticed a particular increase in animal complaints. He noted county law enforcement is only involved in the most extreme animal cases.
Echoing Goodman, he said his department commonly responds to cases of neglect, such as animals locked in hot cars and underfed horses. However, he agreed the ordinances need adjustments, particularly when it comes to animal bites.

According to Iowa codes, a dog that bites can be impounded by local authorities and returned to the owner. The law does not mention consequences for repeat biters.

Driscoll is circulating a petition to support her chicken proposal, touting potential environmental benefits of this change as well as its growing popularity in “more urban” communities than Iowa City.

“I’ve gotten a lot more support than opposition,” she said.

Indeed, she said, she has collected approximately 700 signatures.

Goodman said she is mulling over the concept, and one city official said she is unclear at this point on the fowl proposal. Mayor Regenia Bailey said she is uncertain because no written proposal has been presented to her yet.

“Off-hand, it seems like it would be difficult to keep livestock on properties,” she said.


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