County looks at animal-control ordinance

BY KATIE HEINE | APRIL 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Johnson County Board of Supervisors is considering an animal-control ordinance for unincorporated areas in the county.

Under the ordinance, the county would have the ability to seize, and potentially kill, vicious or at-large animals. An animal is considered vicious if it has taken aggressive action resulting in injury to people or other animals or an inclination to bite or attack repeatedly, according to the proposed ordinance.

The county has been working on an ordinance for the past four years, said Supervisor Pat Harney.
"We're just trying to decide how much depth we want," he said.

Officials said the ordinance would help address some concerns with vicious animals in the rural areas to maintain a safe and secure county.

"Those who ride bikes in the country should feel comfortable doing so," said Supervisor Terrence Neuzil.

Though a draft ordinance was presented to the supervisors at a work session Wednesday, a few adjustments will be made, officials said. Some of the language needs to be tweaked, and the penalty fees need to be further discussed, they said.

"It's still in a very draft stage," said Supervisor Terrence Neuzil.

The supervisors also discussed establishing a three-person committee to hear and evaluate the concerns of county residents before completing the ordinance.

In the draft ordinance, officials outlined the purpose as benefiting overall health and safety concerns.

"It is the public policy of Johnson County to secure and maintain such levels of animal control … as will protect human health and safety and, to the greatest extent practicable, to prevent damage to property," the draft reads.

Iowa City City Councilor Regenia Bailey said she has never had to deal with any animal-control issues. Iowa City has an animal-control ordinance.

"It might suggest [the city's ordinance is] working well," she said.

Though the Sheriff's Office will handle all of the county-related calls, the city will assist it, Harney said. A contract with the city will likely be in place to help take care of the seized animals, he said.
The fine for violating the ordinance will increase with each subsequent offense, $25 for the first, $50 for the second, $100 for the third.

Harney cited a few instances in unincorporated areas in which an ordinance may have been helpful. In an incident near Shueyville, a caiman — an alligator-like animal — got away from its owner and was killed by a neighbor. The owner was licensed by the Department of Natural Resources to possess the animal, and the county had no control.

However, officials said, it's an example of the necessity for the ordinance.

There are a number of particular situations that need to be addressed more in-depth, Harney said. Supervisors said they hope to create an ordinance that addresses both rural and urban issues.

"It's such a difficult process," Harney said.

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