The bark is already in there, but the Cherokee City Council is exploring ways to put more bite into the City's dogs running at large laws and their enforcement.
Although no action was taken on the matter at last week's City Council meeting, it was decided that City Administrator Don Eikmeier, Mayor Mark Murphy, Police Chief Steve Schuck, City Attorney Wally Miller Jr., and City Council members will study the issue further and return with their findings and recommendations at the next Council meeting.
All agreed that putting more teeth into the Ordinance would likely not prevent the slob dog owners from abusing the City Ordinance, while the responsible dog owners already obey the laws and keep their dogs under control as best they can.
The Council discussed a possible annual licensing fee for dogs and cats, and inquired about increasing the fines levied pet owners who violate the animals at large laws.
Council member Mick Mallory said licensing dogs won't affect those owners who allow their dogs to run at large, but increasing the fines might.
Council member Dan Morrow said the City also should include feral cats as there are many in the City running at large. He said many cities trap and euthanize feral cats who have no owners, or who have owners who allow them to run at large unchecked.
Police Chief Steve Schuck said his department would rather catch 100 dogs than try to catch one elusive cat, testimonial to the old adage that a dog will come when called, but a cat will take a message and get back to you.
Schuck reported that the Police fielded 476 dog complaints in the past two years for such violations as dogs at large, barking dogs, and threatening and biting dogs.
According to City Codes, dog owners without past violations are given a violation notice that requires payment of $25 for the first violation, $50 for a second, and $100 for a third. If the Police have multiple problems with a dog owner, they issue a court citation. Schuck said 19 court citations were issued in 2009-2010 for dogs running at large. Fines of $65 were issued on 17 of those.
Schuck also said when some dog owners in violation refuse to pay the fine, accompanying veterinary boarding fees, and provide proof of vaccinations, those dogs and others caught that nobody claims are ultimately euthanized and the cost to the City can total $75-$100 per animal.
In other action, the Council approved the third and final reading increasing residents' landfill fees from the current $6 per month to $7 per month to cover the recent 10-percent increase by the Cherokee County Landfill Commission.
The $1 hike will raise an additional $9,000 per year for the City and will go into effect after publication of the amended Ordinance.
The Council also heard an annual report from Mark Buschkamp, Director of the Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC). Buschkamp also described CAEDC's five-year Economic Development Plan for Years 2010-2014.
The Council also approved annual appointments, including Linda Burkhart to the County REAP Committee, Mick Mallory to the County Damage Assessment Team, and Wayne Pingel to the CAEDC Board.
The Council also acknowledged the appointments to the Cherokee Fire & Rescue Department, including Fire Chief Gary Chase, 1st Assistant Chief Greg Eaton, and 2nd Assistant Chief Dan Murphy.