CLINTON — While no formal action was taken, the Clinton City Council on Tuesday night began discussions on a proposed ordinance amendment that, if approved, would set the maximum number of pets allowed per household at six.
Ward 4 City Councilwoman Rhonda Kearns introduced the proposed ordinance during the Committee of the Whole session, explaining the idea of a limit surfaced as the result of animal hoarding cases in the city.
“We’ve had several hoarding cases in the past couple years,” she said, saying that a limit of six was chosen as a means of acting as a deterrent. Under the current ordinance, residents can have as many animals as they choose as long as they are living in healthful and sanitary conditions.
“I’m nervous about putting a number on it,” said Ward 2 Councilman Cody Seeley, who wondered how many times the city has encountered an animal hoarding issue.
According to city documents, the city in the past two years has had one case with 12 chihuahuas, one case with six pit bulls and another case with more than 30 live cats and several carcasses on the premises. All homes had unsanitary living conditions with large amounts of excrement present, and several animals needed medical care and/or euthanasia, the documents state. In one of the court case proceedings, the judge requested the city consider updating its ordinance to limit the number of dogs and cats allowed, Kearns noted.
“The thought is this may curb some people from acquiring so many animals,” she said.
City Administrator Matt Brooke added that dealing with pet ownership that turns into a hoarding situation puts a strain on city services.
Under the proposed changes to Chapter 91, it would be unlawful for any person to “harbor any combination of more than six total cats, dogs, ferrets, and rabbits, nor shall any person harbor more pets than can be reasonably maintained in healthful or sanitary conditions for the humans or animals occupying the premises, whichever is less, or create any other pet-related conditions constituting a nuisance.”
People with a valid breeding permit would be exempt from the number restriction and people currently harboring more pets than outlined would be permitted to keep their existing pets assuming compliance with all other provisions of Chapter 91 are met – healthful and sanitary conditions – until such time as the pets exceeding the limit die or are removed from the care of the owner for more than 30 days.
“I don’t know, I’m just nervous about putting a number on it,” Seeley said.
He said he was concerned with the ordinance’s proposed language because there are pet owners who have more than six animals and have no problem complying with keeping conditions sanitary. He wondered whether an ordinance change and limit is needed because under the current ordinance, the city can act if unsanitary conditions are detected.
As to what other cities do, Kearns said a lot of other communities have a limit of three or four, while others have no limit. The council could enact a measure that anyone with six or more pets would face an inspection, City Attorney Pat O’Connell said. Brooke suggested the language could be changed to add the word “domesticated.”
“I need to think on this a little bit,” Seeley said.
At O’Connell’s suggestion, the proposed ordinance was sent back to committee for more work. It will be brought back for further discussion at a future meeting.