Casper’s laws on pet ownership and animal care will likely change again, as Casper City Council considers amendments to the city’s animal care and control ordinance.
When implemented in February 2019, the council asked to review the ordinance’s impact at some point in the future. The governing body is now in the midst of that review process and took public comments on the proposed changes during its regular meeting last Tuesday.
Animal enforcement officers have recommended changes based on their experience working under the ordinance for the past year. The amendments include a new definition for aggressive animals, the removal of a handful of stipulations around tethering pets outside and new limitations on feeding wildlife in the city.
One of the more substantive amendments alters the definition of a dangerous animal. Under the new ordinance, animals that have gotten loose and either attacked or intimidated others would be designated as either aggressive or vicious, depending on the severity of the situation.
An aggressive dog would be one that either attacked or intimidated another animal, or intimidated a human but caused no severe injury. A vicious dog would be one that does inflict serious harm, or an aggressive animal that has been written up as aggressive in the past.
City Attorney John Henley said in a recent work session that the change allowed for more discretion and perhaps lighter consequences for a pet that misbehaves once or twice but is otherwise good natured.
The amendments would also make it a misdemeanor to feed feral cats and other wildlife, including turkeys — a growing problem in Casper, according to animal control officers and the Casper Police Department.
Only Councilman Shawn Johnson — an outspoken libertarian — has opposed that measure, saying criminalization should not be the city’s goal. Johnson has often opposed city ordinances that include misdemeanor penalties for this reason.
Seemingly the most controversial change is the length of time an animal can be tethered outside. In the current ordinance, animals can only be tethered for two hours a day and must be “in visual range of a responsible party.”
The proposed ordinance removes the requirement that the dog be in view of a responsible party and increases the amount of time one can be tethered.
Henley said animal control officers felt an increase in the time pet owners were allowed to tether animals was appropriate, “but it’s a big jump,” going from two to 10 hours in a 24-hour period.
The reasoning for the large increase was to give pet owners the ability to tether dogs while at work.
During Tuesday’s public hearing, a group of four residents took to the podium to oppose the changes to the tethering portion of the law. The group was represented by Linda Terrell.
“Our concern is a lot of the items that are there are there to protect the animals,” Terrell told the council.
“I’d rather see tethering taken away entirely,” she added. “Tethering dogs for that length of time is just detrimental to them. We’re supposed to be protecting our animals, not making their life worse.”
Some members of the council appeared not to know how the proposed changes would alter the tethering portion of the law. Councilman Mike Huber asked city staff to provide the current ordinance at the next meeting as a basis for comparison. All current city ordinances are accessible online via the city’s website. The city’s animal care and control laws are in Chapter 6.04 of the Municipal Code.
Despite confusion from several members of the council on how exactly the amendments would change the current ordinance, the council approved the changes on first reading, with only Johnson voting against. Vice Mayor Khrystyn Lutz was absent and did not vote.