By Mark Waite
After years of wrangling and rejection, Nye County commissioners by a 3-1 vote Tuesday finally passed revisions to the county code on animal control in an unusual protocol.
Commissioner Dan Schinhofen cast the sole vote against the bill; Commissioner Gary Hollis was out of the room during the vote. Initially it appeared likely to be tabled again, as Commissioner Joni Eastley, who asked to bring the bill back for discussion, wanted to revisit the original revision to the code, not changes made at a July 27 meeting.
Eastley made the motion for passage, Commissioner Lorinda Wichman stepped down as chairman to second it. Commissioner Butch Borasky was confused at different versions of the bill, eventually voting for it, though he said, “you lost me a long time ago.”
“Butch, it’s a good bill,” Eastley told him.
“Nancy Pelosi told me once, approve it and we’ll read it later,” Borasky replied.
“I’m not Nancy Pelosi,” Eastley said.
To which Borasky replied, “Let’s just go take the vote and get it over with.”
Commissioners already approved changes to Nye County Code Title 17 on zoning that set restrictions on different animals in different zones.
Nye County Animal Control Officer Tim McCarty said there were just minor adjustments that were very seriously needed to bring the county in compliance with state law, the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission and Title 17.
“What is before you today is what was presented four times, three times to the Board of County Commissioners with strikeouts. So I was a little confused on what everybody was questioning me about and wanting to get my thoughts and opinions,” he said.
Schinhofen continued to have problems with a limit of five dogs or five cats over the age of three months, which only applies in the Pahrump Regional Planning District. People who keep more than that limit will be required to obtain a residential kennel permit, which requires an annual fee and inspections by the animal control officer, or a license as a pet fancier.
Retiree Judy Hughes, a Pahrump resident for 22 years, made an emotional plea not to make it illegal for her to feed and take care of feral cats, which she even had spayed and neutered, to visit her mini-ranch.
“I don’t have mice, I don’t have any snakes, I don’t have any rabbits. They’re doing their job and they’re not hurting anybody,” Hughes said.
Eastley said McCarty’s job on day one of the enactment of the ordinance isn’t to go to Hughes’ property and count the number of cats on her property.
“We have no agenda to go out and hunt people down,” McCarty said.
Eastley said actions by the animal control officer would be complaint-driven.
Wichman saw her exclusion of rural areas included in the final revisions. The bill states licensing of dogs and cats will not be required outside the Pahrump Regional Planning District and town boundaries of Beatty, Tonopah, Amargosa Valley, Manhattan, Gabbs, Carvers and the Hadley subdivision. Wichman, who ridiculed the revisions previously as not being practical in the rural areas, said some communities, like Carvers, want some animal control.
John Bosta of Amargosa Valley continued to oppose applying the ordinance to his community.
“You’re taking problems from the town of Pahrump and putting them out in the rest of the county. Here you have building permits, out in the rest of the county you have no building permits,” Bosta said. “What everyone has been afraid of in the outlying areas is, when is this control and ideas of the town of Pahrump going to be expanded out in the areas where we live?”
Hollis replied, “everyone has animals in the county and we have to address that.”
“Do you see animal control officers up in the frontier areas of the county issuing citations to ranchers because their dogs are running at large?” Eastley asked.
Scott Shoemaker, chairman of the animal advisory committee which was first appointed in August 2008 and given as their first task rewriting the code, said there are already limits on the number of animals in the Pahrump Regional Planning District zoning ordinance. The animal advisory board went back to work after initial revisions were voted down by commissioners in 2010.
When asked what difference people will notice right away upon passage, Shoemaker said, “the people that are already violating ordinances will notice it will carry through and not be dismissed on the side.”
In particular he referred to complaints about vicious dogs. Section 6.020.030 of the ordinance makes it unlawful for a person to keep, harbor or own any vicious dog as defined by county ordinance unless it is registered, in which case the dog must be in a secure enclosure or properly muzzled and restrained. If the owner can’t be contacted, the dog will be immediately confiscated. Appeals will be heard by the animal advisory committee, which could order obedience classes that may lift the dangerous dog designation. It exempts guard dogs or security dogs.
The ordinance makes it unlawful for a person to permit an animal to run at large or trespass on public or private property. Wichman wanted a rural exclusion, for working cattle on hundreds of acres. Shoemaker said the cattle would have permission to be on public or private land.
Animal fighting as well as abandoning animals is prohibited. If animal control officers find an animal is without proper care, they may take the animal under their custody.
The bill mandate indoor enclosures, except for animals acclimated to an outdoor environment. It states animals should have enough shade for protection from direct sunlight likely to cause overheating or discomfort.
Rules are imposed on breeders and sellers of cats and dogs. A seller must provide the name, address and phone number of the retailer, the date the dog or cat was born, the last person the retailer acquired the animal from, any registration numbers, a record of immunizations and medical history.
The revised code has a section defining special conditions animals, including everything from cheetahs to baboons. Applicants for a license to possess such animals may not have been convicted of violating state or federal wildlife regulations within three years of the date of their application or any cruelty to animal charges. Copies of any U.S. Department of Agriculture, Nevada Department of Wildlife and U.S. Department of the Interior permits are required.
Wichman read a letter to animal advocate Jackie Casano who was concerned over the ordinance.
“To assume an animal in a rural setting is the responsibility of the taxpayers is equal to thinking one could equally reside 50, 80 or 100 miles from a town and belong to the town’s emergency response services consistently arriving too late to be any use at all,” Wichman said.
She was concerned over interpretation of the law by future political leaders and law enforcement.
“Unfortunately there are always the few who are willing to use the letter of the law to over-regulate,” Wichman said.
Schinhofen said he could try to amend the items he doesn’t agree with.
“Lessons learned, we’ll take it in small pieces next time,” Shoemaker told commissioners, “so it doesn’t take three or four years because people get hung up on small items and it doesn’t get passed.”