NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - No more Mr. Nice Guy, county officials are saying to irresponsible pet owners who let vicious or aggressive animals roam free.
Proposed changes to county regulations will make it easier for Pasco Animal Services officers to chase after vicious dogs or other animals and to impound them on the first offense.
The County Commission recently reviewed a draft of amendments to clarify the animal-control laws. Comments can be made at an Animal Control Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 7:15 p.m., at West Pasco Government Center.
Commissioners plan to hold a public hearing on the proposed animal ordinance amendments Dec. 18.
"We've all had those complaints" about vicious dogs running loose or wild, Commission Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand said. She likes the proposed changes to expedite handling of problem animals.
Under the current rules, officers often must stop at a property line when trying to trap a suspect dog, potbellied pig or other problem animal.
As a result it can be hard for animals because they "don't know property lines, obviously," Assistant County Attorney Timothy Steele remarked.
The suggested changes would allow officers to chase dangerous animals across yards.
In addition, a property owner could gain the power to "humanely trap or confine" an animal running at-large on his or her property, according to a county memo.
Rulings by judges were one reason behind the proposed animal control amendments, according to Denise Hilton, manager of Pasco's Animal Services Division.
Animal Services officers have issued "numerous citations" that have been dismissed "because of the judge's interpretation of the current language" of county animal-control laws, Hilton said.
Judges, for example, have ruled an animal must be involved in two violations before it can be officially declared vicious or aggressive, Steele said.
Other changes would make it a violation carrying a possible fine for providing a false report or statement to an Animal Services officer.
In addition, Animal Services officials could waive the adoption fee for any nonprofit agency adopting an impounded animal.
Finally, the changes would remove the option for group license tags for owners of five or more dogs.
Commissioner Michael Cox said he was unfamiliar with group licensing.
The group licensing system was set up during the 1980s, Hilton explained, to charge a flat fee for owners with many dogs, primarily hunters and breeders.
The fee has been $50 for five to nine dogs, $100 for nine to 14 dogs and $150 for 15 dogs or more.