Following backlash over a new policy that would require residents to register dogs and cats with the City annually for a $15.00 fee, the Devine City Council planned to revisit the matter during the meeting scheduled for press night on Tuesday, December 15.
Chapter 14 was amended to establish the $15.00 annual registration and fee during the November 24 meeting.
Jan. 21 meeting
The first time in 2020 that Council discussed the possibility of amending Ordinances was on Jan. 21, the first meeting of the year.
“All right, so this comes actually from me, although I’m sure y’all have probably heard stuff on it too,” Mayor Cory Thompson said when introducing the agenda item. “People are wanting us to take care of the animal situations that we have in various places here in Devine, and the abandoned buildings.”
Thompson said that animals are residents’ chief concern after roads, and asked that Council work on adopting a stronger Ordinance regarding animal care.
City Attorney Tom Cate said the state had amended Chapter 821.076 of the Health and Safety Code regarding unlawfully restrained dogs.
“How does the law actually read, and have we adopted it yet?” Thompson asked.
“We can put this in our Code of Ordinances,” Cate said. “We can always enforce state law in municipal court if the court has jurisdiction, and the first offense is a Class A misdemeanor.”
Multiple residents at the meeting raised concerns about dogs escaping from or being allowed out of yards. Council members agreed that loose dogs are a problem and that the Code of Ordinances needed to be enforced and updated.
Following discussion about abandoned buildings and yard sales, Cate said that as Councilmembers look through the Code and find things they think should be changed, workshops can be held to discuss those specific sections.
“And that way you will post that [agenda] for the meeting and then we can have people who are directly affected by that come in and give us their input,” Cate said.
No action was taken.
April 23 meeting
District 3 Councilman David Espinosa asked that action on the Ordinances be postponed in order to give the then-newly appointed Councilmen Rufino “Flipper” Vega of District 1 and Chuck Guzman of District 4 a chance to review and give feedback on them. Espinosa also said that the public should be included in the process and have a chance to give their input.
Thompson agreed, remarking that having residents call in to meetings was not the same as having them attend in person to provide feedback.
The meeting was being livestreamed, and Thompson ran down the list of Ordinances under consideration for amendment for the benefit of those watching.
“We were going to update our animal ordinances to be in line with the state’s ordinances,” Thompson said. “I know, Tom, you have gotten some stuff from the state and we were going to update that.
“And there’s some other stuff I want on there too as far as registering animals as some things that will make it easier for our Animal Control.”
A motion by Espinosa and District 2 Councilman Steve Lopez to postpone action on the Ordinances until after the pandemic, and to have workshops and public hearings on them, passed unanimously.
Aug. 18 meeting
The Ordinances under consideration to be amended were next discussed on Aug. 18 at the request of District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall.
“This was to bring our codes in line with the state codes, if I remember correctly, which they are not currently in line with at the moment,” Thompson said, introducing the discussion of Chapter 14.
“It was also to bring registration of animals back into our code, because when this particular section of the code was rewritten, there was no requirement that dogs and cats be registered,” Cate said. “So then we were having a hard time enforcing it. We couldn’t determine who owns a dog or a cat.”
In order to be register their pets, owners must have proof of a yearly rabies vaccination.
Cate said that his understanding was that veterinarians and animal lovers prefer microchipping pets because collars with tags can be lost.
“So if we find an animal and we read the chip, then we know who it belongs to,” Cate said.
“It would make the life of the Animal Control officer easier,” ‘Thompson said.
Randall said that not everybody in town could afford to both microchip their pets and get tags.
“I get the registration, I get that, and most every city in the USA has that,” Randall said. “But the microchip part, I’m kind of leery on that, requiring them, because I can guarantee you they’re not going to do it. A lot of them aren’t.”
Cate there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t comply regardless of what was required.
“But having said that, if the Council will give me direction I’ll come up with something that the Council can approve,” Cate said. “If you want tags, we’ll say tags.”
He added that vets prefer chips, not tags.
“I get it, I just don’t think it’ll get done, that’s all,” Randall said. “And then you’re going to have somebody get in trouble and their pet get confiscated from them because they didn’t or couldn’t get a chip, and I don’t know. I’m on the fence here on this.”
Thompson clarified that Randall was asking for the Ordinance to include an either/or choice for residents regarding tags or microchips.
“They either have to have tags or they have to have a chip,” Thompson said.
“I would be good with that, but you still have to register for the City,” Randall said. “You don’t get away from that part.”
Council discussed the cost of microchipping, which they pegged at an initial cost of around $50, and $10 to $20 a year to keep the chip current.
Lopez agreed that was unaffordable for a lot of people.
A Lopez-Randall motion to table amending Chapter 14 until Cate returned with a rewritten version that required tags and registration but made microchipping voluntary passed unanimously.
Cate brought a rewritten version of Chapter 14 to Council for approval, and reminded Council that the last version of the Ordinance required dog and cat owners to register their pets with a microchip.
“And then Debbie said, ‘Well, what about tags?’ right?” Cate said.
“No, I said no to the microchips altogether, requiring that,” Randall said.
“Now we give them the option,” Cate said. “Because there’s a lot of vets, as I mentioned to the Council last the time that I was here, a lot of vets want a microchip, so now they have the option. They can either have a microchip or they can get the tags.”
“Not a lot of people can afford microchipping their animals,” Randall said. “That’s why I was like, ‘I don’t think we should institute a requirement for it.'”
Thompson asked if Council wanted to read through the Ordinance and Randall said yes.
A Randall-Vega motion to table action on Chapter 14 until the meeting on Nov. 24 passed unanimously.
Thompson asked if Council had had a chance to review the Ordinance and Randall said that she had.
“I know [Cate] took away the mandating the microchipping,” Randall said.
“It’s a choice, Debbie,” Cate said.
“Yeah, I know,” Randall said. “I’m not saying that it’s not a choice, I get that, but to have that in the Ordinance? I mean I guess I don’t really care, as long as we’re not mandating it.”
Cate reiterated that microchipping pets is a choice, and said that was based upon Randall’s comments at a previous meeting.
“If we say that everybody’s got to put on tags, that’s going to upset somebody too,” Cate said. “This way it gives them a choice. They can either use a tag, or they can use a chip.”
Randall asked when the Ordinance would go into effect, and Cate said that because there is a penalty attached for noncompliance, it had to be published in the newspaper twice as a public notice.
“Let’s say you get a puppy or a dog in June,” Randall said. “You come down and you get your tags so you’re all legal. Is that only good until then December? And then you’ve got to get them again in January? Or is it a full calendar year from the time you obtain your tags?”
Cate said that the rabies vaccine is good for a certain amount of time, and that registration should be renewed when animals are vaccinated again.
“So it’s once a year from the point that you do the first one,” Thompson said.
An Espinosa-Lopez motion amending Chapter 14 with the corrections made by Cate to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, passed unanimously.
Amendments to Chapter 42 – Environment, Article II, Noise; Chapter 66 – Offenses and Miscellaneous Provisions, Article VIII, Temporary Sales; Chapter 86 – Streets, Sidewalks, and Other Private Property; and Chapter 94, Article V, Stopping, Standing, and Parking, were passed during the Aug. 18 meeting.
Chapter 18 – Buildings and Building Regulations, Article VIII, Unsafe Buildings, has also been discussed.
There are several options to catch up on Council meetings for those who are unable to attend in person.
Meeting minutes are posted to the City’s website, www.cityofdevine.org, after they are approved by Council. Audio recordings of meetings are available by request at City Hall.
While the City has chosen to stop livestreaming meetings, archived livestreams of meetings held on March 27, April 7, April 23, and May 5 are available via the City website. Follow the “Live Council Meetings” link on the City website to texasconference.org and scroll down to see meeting links.
Articles about past Council meetings are available on the News website at www.devinenews.com.
Regular Council meetings are held the third Tuesday of every month at 6:00 pm, with Special meetings added as deemed necessary. Meetings are held in the George S. Woods Community Center to facilitate social distancing.
By Marly Davis