City Takes on Animal Cruelty

- AMARILLO -- The Amarillo city council passes the first reading of two new ordinances to prevent animal cruelty.
    These changes were in the making even before the animal control controversy erupted two months ago.

    The new ordinances clarify existing state and city laws already on the books and better defines the authority of animal control officers in the field.

    While this has nothing to do with the investigation into Animal Control's euthanasia practices, it is getting a lot more attention because of the controversy.

    The ordinances passed Tuesday have more to do with how pets and other animals are treated by their owners and handlers.

    Now, ear cropping and tail bobbing can only be done by someone licensed to do so.  Like a Veterinarian.
    The ordinance clarifies ownership of pets.  For example, you can't get out of a ticket by claiming your 8 year old is the owner.

    It also addresses access to food, water and shelter for your pets.
    There are strict rules when it comes to tethering your dog.  Among the tethering rules, most of which are already state laws:
    An animal cannot be tethered anywhere for more than three hours each day.

    They cannot be tethered with a chain or chain collar.

    The animals must be tethered at least three feet from a public sidewalk.

    The tethers must contain swivels on each end and must not restrict access to food and water.

    Animal rights activist Shea White says she witnessed improper tethering in her own neighborhood.

    "They didn't know it was illegal.  And, what would have normally been an otherwise friendly dog, turned aggressive  because she was out there on a chain. No food. No water, couldn't get to her shelter ." said White.

    White says she's been seeking these changes to the ordinance since at least October.

    She has also been a harsh critic of the leadership at Animal Control.  White claims director Mike McGee and his assistant Shannon Barlow refused to enforce the laws on the books.

    Those two remain on administrative leave while the investigation into animal control's euthanasia practices continues.  A Randall county grand jury could make a decision on that case tomorrow.

    The new ordinances must pass a second reading and be published to the public for 10 to 15 days before they take effect.

    Violations are a class "C" misdemeanor punishable by as much as $500 in fines.

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