City officials may alter ordinances about animals

Keri Thornton | Daily Press

Tahlequah Compliance Coordinator Ray Hammons began reviewing city ordinances Tuesday morning, April 6.

City officials have begun the process of reviewing the ordinances pertaining to animal control after a local woman said the codes were too vague.

Deanna Hays claimed she's had an ongoing issue with her neighbor’s two pit bulldogs. Hays believes the city has failed to do everything possible to rectify the issue.

Compliance Coordinator Ray Hammons said he and Animal Control Officer Vicky Green have worked with the dog owners and Hays since the problem surfaced in September.

Tahlequah city ordinances once deemed pit bulls to be "vicious, fighting, and dangerous animals." The ordinance that prohibits pit bulls in the city limits no longer exists, however.

“From my understanding, the Supreme Court ruled against banning a breed of dog, so it had to be changed from a breed of dog to a vicious dog,” said Hammons.

Oklahoma law prohibits municipalities from passing breed bans since the Supreme Court overturned the pit bull ban in 2011.

“It was an ordinance at one time, and pit bulls weren’t allowed in the city limits, but that was taken out because of the ruling. We’re going to review it and make sure the language is appropriate with that change,” said Hammons.

Hays argued the city ordinances needed to be more clear, and issues that may arise should not be up to the discretion of animal control.

However, animal control officers are authorized and empowered to sign complaints and charge people who violate the ordinances. They also investigate nuisances concerning animals.

“A lot of this falls under the discretion of the animal control officer, which it should,” said Hammons. “It’s up to [Green] and will remain that way. That is her job to make those calls, and she’s great at it.”

Hammons said he and Green will look over each code thoroughly to ensure issues as such can be taken care of quickly and efficiently.

“It’ll be a process reviewing these codes, and it’ll take us a few weeks to go through them and find out what we need to do. We’re pulling ordinances from other municipalities and we have other duties to do at the city,” said Hammons.

According to the current ordinance, cattle, swine, potbellied pigs, or bulls cannot be kept within city limits. The exception to that is if the stock is awaiting transportation, awaiting to be slaughtered, or is for show purposes.

“The keeping or maintaining or permitting to be kept or maintained animals in the city as prohibited by this section is declared to be a public nuisance,” the ordinance states.

Hammons said up to five chickens can be kept per property within the city limits.

“We try to stay away from anything that could be considered a repeated annoyance, such as roosters,” he said.“If we change an ordinance it had to be done through City Council and all we can do is make a recommendation for the board to approve or disapprove."

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