After passing an ordinance that does not take effect until January, 2025, the Liberal City Commission has now started to receive public input on the nuts and bolts of the proposed rules, and some want to continue to conversation.

Commissioner Janeth Vazquez wants a special session to discuss the issue.

The concern is to address the growing issue of stray animals, particularly dogs, who have become a nuisance and a fear for those who want to go outdoors and walk through Liberal’s neighborhoods and parks.

Issues have occurred where dogs have been released by pet owners through the day, allowing them to roam the neighborhood until the pet owner returns home.

Simply put, that is poor pet ownership. Dogs are powerful pets, and no matter how calm and docile we may believe our pets to be, they can become a threat quickly.

Being a pet owner does not give a person the right to expose the rest of the community to their pet.

Owning a pet comes with the main responsibility of housing the pet on property, or using a leash when taking the pet off property.

Does the proposed ordinance solve the problem?

The proposal is to register all pets annually for a $10 fee which also requires pets to be vaccinated. The ordinance reinforces existing rules that limit a home to three pets.

Commissioner Vazquez stated at a recent meeting that responsible owners will follow the rules and pay the fees, but those who don’t follow the rules won’t.

The challenge is twofold.

According to animal control officers, strays are a real nuisance, and they need help in trying to address the issue. Registering animals is one way, they believe, to help them know which animals are pets and which are not.

Because of the number of animals that are housed at the shelter, it is impossible to keep it a no-kill shelter. By registering animals, at least they will know which are missing pets and which are not.

Commissioner Vazquez questioned why the fees must be paid annually.

For some, the question has become why should responsible pet owners have to pay fees to address the issues of those who are not responsible pet owners.

Still, the question remains, will registering pets reduce strays?

That question will only be answered after the attempt is made (similar to assessing how traffic may be affected if lanes or parking are modified).

Will registering pets deter stray behavior?

After all, the goal is to reduce or eliminate the number of stray animals that can end in dog bites or even death of other animals.

While discussions are taking place on this issue, perhaps the one area to revisit is the fine for stray animals.

Some people will choose to follow the new ordinance, and others won’t. As an incentive, those who do should receive one fine and those who don’t another. A non-registered animal that ends up being captured by animal control should come with a fine that stings a bit as an incentive to register as well as keep the pet properly controlled.

A stiff fine is what keeps speeders driving the limit. A stiff fine is what keeps cars parking the proper way.

Allowing pets to run free is both dangerous and irresponsible.

Good pet owners will have their animals up to date on shots and registrations.

That’s important. Whether that fee is a one-time fee or annual will surely be part of the ongoing discussion. And fines that will actually encourage compliance will also help achieve the goal.

Since this new ordinance doesn’t take effect until January, it will be helpful for ongoing conversations to revisit how to achieve the overall goal of reducing the number of strays.

We support Commissioner Vazquez in her effort to continue the conversation and to combine public input received by the commissioners with recommendations by staff.

We have seen a willingness since the election of Vazquez, Jeff Parsons and Jose Lara to balance the views of community and staff, and while this issue may seem trivial to multi-million dollar housing projects and comprehensive plans, to pet owners who love their animals, this issue hits home. Those who may pay little attention to other issues have a hawk’s focus on this.

While all may have to contribute to the greater good by registering their pet, how much, how often and what the penalty may be for having a stray still need to additional discussion.

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