Animal ordinance sent to attorneys

It was standing room only at a special “working” meeting held in Cowley on Tuesday night, where residents of the town were invited by the town officials to help work out the details of an ordinance that will regulate livestock kept within the town’s limits. The meeting lasted less than 30 minutes and took the townsfolk one step closer to a workable solution that will allow livestock to be kept within the town’s limits, but will also address complaints when necessary.

Speaking on behalf of a relatively large group of animal owners, Rosanna Rusch presented an alternative to the council’s proposed ordinance that was tabled after a second reading in a previous meeting held on Dec. 13. The ordinance was tabled at that meeting to allow time for council members to address concerns presented at that meeting by residents who own livestock.

Cowley’s resident animal owners and town officials are working on an ordinance that will regulate how horses like the ones pictured above will continue to be kept within the town’s limits.

The revised ordinance covers all properties within the town limits as compared to only a special zone in the original proposal. Rusch explained that the group felt all property owners should be treated equally, not just those within a certain zone.

It also eliminated all rules regarding the number of animals that can be kept on certain lot sizes. Rusch explained that the group felt that lot size has nothing to do with the quality of care animals received by their owners.

It eliminated any specified rules regarding insect control because it was felt that this was part of the “cleanliness” rules.

Although it kept the section that prohibited owners of livestock from allowing their animals to make loud or incessant noise, it removed the words “which may be annoying or discomforting to neighbors in close proximity.” Rusch said the group felt those words left too much open to interpretation and opinion.

It simplified the permit application process by requiring far less information with regard to the specific owner of each animal, the description of animals, the description of the areas where the animals will be secured and the requirement to list the name and physical address of all adjoining property owners who may be affected. Most importantly, it took away any requirement to get permission from neighbors owning nearby properties, in order to keep animals.

It reduced the time period for obtaining permits and called for one permit for the entire property. The permit would not dictate the number of animals kept on the property. This would allow property owners to decide how many animals they can keep and still satisfy all of the requirements for cleanliness and care of the animals kept on their property. The hefty fine of up to $750 per day for non-compliance was left intact to motivate compliance.

It also clarified the complaint process to specify a warning period where animal owners are given the opportunity to comply before a hearing is scheduled.

The group met twice prior to making their presentation to the town council and appointed Rusch to make the presentation on their behalf. As a result, the meeting was orderly and efficient, saving the council from hearing what could have been hours of arguments.

“We felt like we wanted them to see that this means something to us,” said Rusch. “We didn’t want to come into this meeting half-cocked.”

Mayor Joel Peterson expressed his gratitude to the group for their well-organized presentation and for the civil discussion that ensued afterward.

For the most part, the group’s proposal was well-received by the town council. The council will now forward the written proposal to the town’s attorney for review.

“This is for the betterment of everybody in this town,” said resident Cindy Fannon. “We rearranged it (the ordinance) through this group so it will be a little more satisfying to everybody.”

A second working meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. to discuss comments made by the town’s attorney. Any refinements to the proposal will be made at that time.

Once the terms of the ordinance are finalized, the town council will read it at two more separate public meetings, as required by law, before voting on it.

The next reading is expected to take place in February and will be followed by a final reading in March. The ordinance is expected to take effect in April of this year.

“I commend the mayor and the councilmen for their objectiveness,” said resident David Rael. “They did a very good job and they didn’t slam this ordinance down our throats. They were receptive and they listened and I appreciated that very much. The last thing we wanted to see at this meeting was a dogfight. We’re all neighbors. We’re all Cowleyites.”

“It’s nice we weren’t throwing chairs at each other,” added Fannon. “We just wanted to work things out without a big fight.”

By Patti Carpenter