Animal law animus
WAYNESFIELD — Waynesfield residents crowded the Waynesfield Village Council chambers Monday, but the hot topic focused on animals.
Twenty-eight people attended Monday’s council meeting as councilors prepared to hear the first reading on an ordinance that would designate more clearly what animals are restricted from being within the village limits. After most of the residents voiced concern over the restrictions, councilors again tabled the issue and asked people attending to offer feedback to councilors before they begin steps to put restrictions in place.
Copies of the ordinance are to be given to those requesting them and councilor Chris Kaufman voiced the council’s wishes by saying, “mark them up” or highlight suggested changes to the legislation.
The new ordinance in its current state would ban residents from keeping, harboring, storing, maintaining or grazing any defined animals within the village limits including farm animals, wild animals or fowl.
Violators would have 30 days to remove the animal it upon notification.
Violators would be subject to a fine ranging from $25 to $100 for the offense with each day considered a separate offense.
However, the ordinance would allow for council to make exceptions to the law. Residents would have the opportunity to register their animals under an “excepted animal” clause, in effect grandfathering the properties under the law. The one catch would be the animals “excepted” by the council would not be able to be replaced once they left the property.
“We would just like everyone to look at it,” councilor Rich Libby said. “We want to keep it as broad as we can.”
Kaufman said the ordinance would give the village an enforceable tool while they continue to revise the village’s zoning laws.
The issue has been discussed by council for more than a year. The issue came to light in April 2012 when Police Chief Nathan Motter asked councilors to address the issue. Problems with clarity in current village legislation made it difficult to enforce the rules, Motter said.
Two property owners within village limits currently violate the ordinance and have farm animals within the village limits.
Councilors have discussed changes that would be mutually acceptable to residents with farm animals, residents without farm animals and councilors.
Becky Clark, who owns property in the village, currently has six horses. Another resident, Larry Sutherland, owns several sheep.
Clark said she thought the new legislation was too stringent as it banned her from getting more horses in the future if any horse she owns now dies.
“I want to know why we need this,” Clark said. “The horses have never been a problem. I have grandkids who will want to have them for 4-H. They won’t be able to replace their starter horses under this.”
Libby said it was his understanding that the legislation was meant to be a compromise so people could still keep what they had but farm animals could still be phased out from being in the village.
Sutherland, said the legislation would run him out of business.
Sutherland raises sheep part-time on 42 acres he owns, including two acres within the village limits.
“They have been there for 12 years and they have never been a problem,” Sutherland said. “No one has ever said a word and I found out about this through a third party. I don’t think much of the way council is handling this. It doesn’t puts me out of business today, it just postpones it for awhile.”
Sutherland suggested adjusting the clause in the new ordinance to allow sheep to be on his land as an excepted property until the property was sold to new owners. He also said he would like to begin the process to disconnect the two acres from the corporation if the new ordinance was put into place.
Sutherland has 19 head of sheep on the property.
Councilors expressed that they were happy the community turned out to voice their concerns on the issue and said they would take all of the comments into account.
One resident said she was concerned because she had considered getting goats on her property, which is located in the limits of the village.
Another said he had concerns with some being allowed to have farm animals while others could not.
Several also said the village had a much bigger problem with feral cats than with the properties with farm animals and should possibly refocus their efforts.
Councilors asked that all citizens with suggested changes to have them submitted a week before the next council meeting, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on July 22.