New Law Muzzles All Dog-Related Ventures

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The Payson Town Council opted to remove all exemptions from the town's revised barking dog ordinance -- now all dog-related businesses, including the Payson Humane Society -- are subject to citation.

The move tempered the reaction of a large group of humane society supporters in the audience.

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Vice Mayor Judy Buettner

A late agenda addition gave the council the option of deleting a section of ordinance 664 exempting for-profit, dog-related businesses from all restrictions on barking and at-large dogs -- but leaving the humane society subject to prosecution. The addendum was posted at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday for consideration at the Thursday evening regular meeting.

An earlier attempt by town attorney Sam Streichman to add the humane society-- which was omitted from the original ordinance -- to the list of exempt businesses, which included hunters, dog racers, kennels and veterinary clinics, from prosecution was defeated after several councilors expressed their opposition.

Carol Stubbs, legal adviser for the humane society, said that the town's effort to level the playing field, and make all businesses subject to citation for noise violations might not defuse the issue.

"That's better in a way for us, because there are enough other people at risk (the businesses that lost their exemptions) that they will create a problem," she said.

Stubbs also noted that the council had little choice but to add the option after an article in the Tuesday edition of the Roundup detailed the proposed changes.

"Obviously they looked at the article and said, ‘This looks bad,'" Stubbs said. "(As I was reading the article) I was thinking what should we call this? The Payson Humane Society Barking Law or maybe the Let's Run the Payson Humane Society Out of Business Law."

Before the meeting, Stubbs explained the issue from the shelter's perspective.

"We take their dogs, including barking dogs they were going to cite, which they own for a period of 72 hours," she said. "So they want us to pay a fine to them because their dogs are barking.

"Where is this logical? Apparently they've figured that out."

Several councilors challenged Stubbs after she argued this point at the meeting, pointing out that the shelter had never been cited for violations even though it wasn't exempted.

As passed by the council the revised ordinance makes it easier for law enforcement officials to cite dog owners by removing language that requires "noises" to be "continued and continuous and incessant," and which implies the hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. are the most onerous.

Instead, dog owners will be cited for noises "including but not limited to repeated howling, barking, whining or other utterances."

Stubbs asked the council to remove the word "repeated" because of its vagueness. While several councilors agreed, the change was not included in the motion the council passed.

The new ordinance also makes it possible for an owner to be cited the first time a dog is "found running at large." It also redefines "public nuisance animal" to include any animal that "soils, defiles or defecates on any property other than that of its owner," or "that causes fouling of the air by noxious or offensive odors."

Vice Mayor Judy Buettner explained that the council instigated the changes in response to citizen concern.

"It's because so many people asked us to do it," the vice mayor said, "That was a big, big issue when we were doing the noise ordinance for The Door Stop. So it's not us."

In a presentation to the council featuring simpler ordinances implemented by other Arizona communities, Streichman pointed out that the council's purpose in addressing the issue was to simplify and facilitate enforcement of the ordinance. He called the old ordinance "a mess" that is "overly cumbersome and overly complicated."

Buettner agreed.

"(Before) a dog had to bark for an hour continuously and then an officer had to come and observe and all that kind of stuff," she said. "That's what we're trying to get rid of there."

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