Dear Michigan Friends,
There's a proposed animal ordinance being considered in Ann Arbor that's very close to the animal rightist's complete agenda and your worst nightmare. The thirty page proposal includes animal guardianship elements, breeder permits, a pet store sales prohibition, new owner grooming and kenneling requirements and a prohibition on electronic collars, to name just a few items.
The proposal may be found at http://www.ci.ann-arbor.mi.us/Clerks/Animal Ordinance.pdf Every Michigan animal owner should weigh-in, opposing this effort to limit your enjoyment of your pets. The key vote's scheduled for December 15, 2003. For the Ann Arbor Mayor and City Council contact information, see http://www.ci.ann-arbor.mi.us/council.html Please circulate this message widely and telephone or email Ann Arbor to insure that this ill-conceived ordinance is soundly defeated. Thank you.
Sportsmen's and Animal Owners' Voting Alliance
Pet rules debate stretches to 3 a.m.
Council will take issue up again next month after more input
Friday, November 7, 2003
BY TOM GANTERT
News Staff Reporter
In other cities, City Council Member Wendy Woods' question, "What is considered human companionship for a fish?" may have seemed a bit strange.
But in Ann Arbor on Thursday night, it was part of an ongoing debate about proposed animal handling laws that were postponed until the Dec. 15 meeting.
As the council voted to postpone a vote 9-2, Democrat Council Member Heidi Herrell broke down and cried. It was Herrell who sponsored the 38-page revision of the city's animal laws and spent the last three years working on it with the 13-member Task Force On Animal Related Programs, Policies, Procedures and Ordinances. Thursday was her last meeting after eight years on the council.
The city will now seek input from animal organizations over the next 30 days.
Council Members Kim Groome, D-1st Ward, and Jean Carlberg, D-3rd Ward, voted against the postponement. Herrell, surprisingly, voted for it. She said she didn't want controversy if it was passed by her vote.
Woods' question was aimed at one of the many controversial parts of the proposed ordinance. Besides mandating things such as domestic cats be licensed, it also contains language that owners must provide "human companionship" to their pets.
The original ordinance that was approved in its first reading last month also banned the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits at pet stores, outlawed animals at schools and made it illegal to own reptiles. And if an animal was hit on the road, the motorist would have to contact the police or the Humane Society. But after more than 40 amendments, all those stipulations were removed.
The proposal also mandates that dogs can't be left alone for more than 24 hours. Cats and other animals can't be left alone for more than 72 hours. Originally, the 24-hour rule applied to all animals.
More changes are likely after council members said they were swayed by the criticism of many leaders of state-wide animal organizations that spoke Thursday.
"Clearly, many stakeholders haven't been consulted adequately," said Council Member Bob Johnson, D-1st Ward.
The meeting lasted more than seven hours until 3 a.m., with about an hour of public speakers followed by another hour of council debate.
"This bill is off the wall," said Al Stinson, a retired professor of veterinary medicine at Michigan State University and current director of legislative affairs for the Michigan Association For Pure Bred Dogs, Inc. "There are so many ambiguous statements."
Stinson, who lives in Williamston, pointed to the definition of "animal" being "any non-human vertebrate."
"You can't talk about the needs of all non-human vertebrates in one regulatory action."
Cindy Cooke, the vice president for dog events for the United Kennel Club, made the trip from Kalamazoo. She said the proposed laws highlight a rift between the animal-rights and animal-welfare groups. Cooke said the ordinance was written by the animal-rights activists, such as Herrell, who equate animal ownership to slavery and believe dogs have the same rights as people. Cooke said animal welfare groups want to make animals as comfortable as possible as pets.
"The long term goal of animal rights people is the abolition of all domestic animals," Cooke said.
Herrell said that was wrong, noting she has a pet dog. She also said the goal was to make sure all animals were treated well.
City Attorney Stephen Postema said that a lot of the controversial details are overshadowing the good in the proposal.
"Forget human companionship and those other things," Postema said. "There is a whole set of cruelty issues that will make it easier to prosecute."
After Woods asked for clarification on human companionship for a fish, Herrell said people should ask their veterinarians. Woods looked to other council members for an answer.
Herrell said there'd have to be a complaint to the city that the fish hasn't had adequate human companionship, which she said could be verified by a dirty container or if the fish was sick.
"It doesn't make sense to me," Woods said.
In the end, the council listened to people such as Dr. Kathryn Tosney, a University of Michigan professor of biology. Tosney said the proposed laws could serve as a template for many other communities, but needed more thought. Tosney said many experts were not consulted and should have more things added, such as informational sheets on how to care for pets at the point of sale.
Tom Gantert can be reached at [email protected] or (734) 994-6701.