The Devine City Council made an abrupt about-face during the December 15 meeting, voting unanimously to revoke an amendment to Chapter 14 of the Code of Ordinances that would have instituted an annual $15.00 registration fee for dogs and cats, as well as required that the animals either wear a collar and tags or be microchipped.
The reversal came less than a month after Council unanimously approved the amendment on November 24, following online backlash from Devine residents after District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall Dec. 4 post about the amendment on her political Facebook page
District 3 Councilman David Espinosa kicked off discussion with a recap of how the amendment came to be, from initial discussion about various issues with cats and dogs inside the City limits in January, to Council’s unanimous agreement in April to postpone action on amending any Ordinances until community input could be gathered via public hearings.
“On August the 18th, this item was brought back to Council at the request of Councilperson Randall,” Espinosa said. “I told the mayor that I had put these items on the agenda and asked to be tabled at the last meeting, and the mayor mentioned to be that was not going to happen, and that the [advisory] boards had been reactivated.”
Espinosa questioned why Randall posted about the amendment before the City could publish a public notice about it in the News and recommended that Council rescind the amendment and hold a public hearing in Jan. 2021 to gather residents’ feedback before considering it again.
Randall voiced her agreement with many of Espinosa’s statements, but denied requesting that all the Ordinances under consideration for amendments be placed on the Aug. 18 agenda.
“All those Ordinances that meeting said that I asked for them, and I never did,” Randall said. “There might have been two of them I think I did ask for, but somehow when the agenda got written, Debbie Randall asked for every one of them.”
Randall said she posted information about the Chapter 14 amendment after an article about it ran in the News (see “Council approves variance allowing child to keep roosters, amends Ordinance to require new registration of all dogs and cats starting Jan. 1” in the Dec. 2 edition).
“And then the explosion happened,” Randall said. “And I have never thought that a tiny little post like that could create the ruckus.”
A number of residents addressed Council prior to any action.
Angela Pichardo thanked Council for having empathy for people who are suffering economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while Phil Montgomery said that Council needed to think about the consequences of its decisions.
“Please, think it through,” Montgomery said. “What’s it going to help? What’s it going to hurt? Is this the fix? And I can tell you that will not fix it. You’re going to create criminals out of a bunch of us.”
Laura Hardt said that it’s impossible to make cats wear collars, and that microchipping them was a waste of time and money if they get run over.
“I think requiring people to register or chip their animals is a huge inconvenience for people,” Hardt said. “It’s kind of expensive, as expensive as having a pet, and then another layer of bureaucracy telling you how to live your life.”
Patricia Lipscomb said that microchipping her pug was not a risk she was willing to take, and that forcing a collar onto the dog, which has a fragile trachea, was dangerous and stupid.
“It’s not reasonable to penalize those of us who are being responsible with our animals, or to tell us how we should take care of them,” Lipscomb said.
An Espinosa-Randall motion to rescind Chapter 14’s amendment and hold a public hearing on the issue in January passed 5-0 with support from District 1 Councilman Rufino “Flipper” Vega, District 2 Councilman Steve Lopez, and District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Lawler.
By Marly Davis