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County adds teeth to animal control ordinance

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The Douglas County Board adopted a new animal control ordinance last week.

The new law requires dogs vaccinated for rabies, animal owners or custodians to maintain control over animals, creates penalties for mistreating animals and establishes rules for owning exotic animals in Douglas County.

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The ordinance defines animals as any warm-blooded creature other than human, and amphibians and reptiles.

Penalties include fines ranging from $50 to $1,000 depending on the violation, and could include up to six months imprisonment.

Supervisor Charlie Glazman questioned whether the fines should be larger. After all, it was an incident involving a colt — Windchill, found nearly frozen, nursed by volunteers but which subsequently died as a result of starvation and neglect — in Douglas County that was a motivating factor for stiffer penalties in the state.

“Are we comfortable with these amounts?” Glazman questioned.

Corp Council Carolyn Pierce, who drafted the new ordinance, said she had based penalties on what other counties have set. However, she said, the county’s Public Safety Committee chose to increase them.

Public Safety Committee Chairman Nick Baker said the reason the panel took up the issue is because there is a concern in rural Douglas County about the abuse and neglect of animals.

“We think it’s a pretty secure way to go at it,” Baker said. “One of the problems we ran into was that you can set that penalty at any rate.”

However, he said if the rate is too high, people simply won’t pay the fine, effectively negating the penalty without extraordinary effort by the county.

Supervisor Keith Allen said the committee felt the penalties were too low as presented, so the panel doubled the financial penalties before the ordinance was presented to the full board for consideration.

The County Board unanimously adopted the new ordinance.

The ordinance does not apply to communities where more stringent ordinances have been adopted.

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