After weeks worth of debate, and the threat of a negative referendum election, Quay County commissioners voted Monday to repeal an animal ordinance.
The vote was 2-1, with commissioners Robert Lopez and Bill Curry voting for the repeal and Commissioner Brad Bryant voting in dissent.
The ordinance would have
- Allowed law enforcement and prosecutors to impose penalties on pet owners who allowed their animals to let them run wild or to abandon them.
- Required persons who own seven to 10 non-neutred pets to purchase an annual multi-annual $25 permit.
- Required aanybody owning more than 10 animals to purchase an annual breeder's permit for $25.
- Defined criminal penalties for animal neglect and cruelty,
The ordinance's repeal avoids a potential special election, for which petitions were circulating.
"I don't believe we should spend $8,000 for a special election on a dog ordinance," Lopez said. "We've got more important things to do with that $8,000."
In proposing the repeal, Lopez said, "the ordinance we passed was good, but there has been a lot of misinformation given to the public." As a result, Lopez said it would be better to scuttle the ordinance and start over.
Bryant said he understood the difficulty. The purpose of his "nay" vote on the repeal, he said, was to show support for the committee that had helped to draft the animal law.
"I'm disappointed," Bryant said, arguing against the repeal. "There are people in this county who deserve as much attention as these guys (ordinance opponents). They're just not as loud."
The ordinance that was passed, he said, "was not about the dog, but the ownership of the dog." Some local animal ordinances, he explained, aim enforcement at the animals themselves, not their owners.
Christina Fleming, a Tucumcari High School science teacher and member of the committee that drafted the ordinance, met the law's repeal with resignation.
"If citizens would have stayed informed," she said, "we could have done this right the first time."
Some of the ordinance opponents had complained they were not informed that the ordinance was being considered. Fleming said she had been aware of the ordinance since early 2011 when the law was first proposed.
Naomi Ashcraft, a leader among the ordinance opponents, said, "We were pleased about the outcome. We get so many laws imposed on us as citizens, (and) this was one more thing being forced on us. Our rights are being trampled on all the time. We're tired of all the rules and regulations."
Lopez and Curry favored a redrafting of the ordinance with participation from opponents of the law repealed Monday. Asked if she would serve on a committee to draft a new ordinance, Ashcraft said she would do so gladly.
County Sheriff Joe Schallert also advised the commission, "Let's put it on hold." He, too, suggested that a committee with representation from the opposition be formed to draft a new animal law for the county. If the animal ordinance were not repealed, he said, enforcement would have required more manpower, an additional vehicle and animal control equipment.