By Mark Waite
For the second time, members of the Nye County Animal Advisory Committee will present changes to Title 6, the animal control section of the county’s code.
The proposal is expected to be made during next Tuesday’s meeting.
During the first rewrite, county commissioners rejected the changes in March 2010, after Deputy District Attorney Marla Zlotek said the ordinance wouldn’t apply to the town of Pahrump, which has its own animal control ordinance. That came after a year and a half of meetings by the animal advisory committee.
Since then, the Pahrump town board repealed its animal control ordinance.
Scott Shoemaker, a member of the animal advisory committee, said the district attorney had 235 changes to this revised version, much of it minor style changes, there were also changes in state statutes.
There was a tangled web of jurisdiction when the animal advisory committee began their work, Shoemaker said. Animal control in the northern part of Nye County was under the sheriff’s office, the southern county was under the supervision of Nye County Emergency Medical Services. The town of Pahrump had its own animal control ordinance and the animal shelter was operated by the county Buildings and Grounds Department. Now the whole county is under EMS animal control, he said.
Nye County Animal Control Officer Tim McCarty wanted revisions to the existing ordinance, which are more than 20 years old. The advisory committee labored over minutiae in the changes.
“There’s so much gray area in there that requires us to take action on an interpretation and that’s a personal interpretation. I want it in black and white,” McCarty said.
The previous animal control ordinance only governed the Pahrump Regional Planning District. The new version would take effect countywide.
Instead of a ban on dogs in the parks, like the first rewrite, the latest version requires dogs be on a leash, with exceptions for dog shows. Owners have to clean up after their animals, as well.
Dogs are already licensed, so committee members thought cats should be licensed too. That applies to dogs and cats over six months old, proof of rabies vaccination must be provided, the term of the license will be for one to three years, depending on the vaccination. Farm dogs will be exempt.
Another hot topic was whether to require shade for horses. Shoemaker said the committee chose not to require it.
“There’s never been a heat-related death of a horse caused by overexposure to the sun,” Shoemaker said. “The horse may be uncomfortable, but it’s not cruel.”
Committee members went to great lengths to define special conditions animals, which includes everything from baboons to cheetahs to wolf hybrids. Owners need a special permit for those animals. They must be at least 18 years old; have experience in caring for those animals; not be convicted of any violation of state or federal wildlife regulations within three years or of animal cruelty; and have a facility that complies with local zoning. Inventories of the animals, plans for the facilities and copies of state and federal agency permits must be provided. There must be a plan for quick and safe recapture of the animals, or destruction if that isn’t possible.
The ordinance prohibits a person from keeping more than five dogs or cats over three months at any one residence. No more than two unspayed or unneutered dogs or cats over six months old may be kept. But a pet fancier may keep up to five dogs or cats unspayed or unneutered, with a special permit and annual inspection. Then there’s a new definition for a hobby breeder, one who sells, trades or gives away 24 or less cats or dogs in one year.
Residential kennel permits allow keeping six to 10 dogs or cats; then there are commercial kennels used as a rescue, sanctuary or commercial purposes, which require a conditional use permit from the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission.
Animal fighting will be banned, along with torture and cruelty. Horse tripping will be illegal. That section includes depriving animals of necessary food and drink. Pet owners can’t abandon an animal to die. If an animal control officer finds an animal is without proper care, they may take the animal in.
Some provisions in the ordinance are common sense, like one that requires indoor enclosures for animals to protect against heat and cold, have adequate ventilation and protect from the sun. Dogs or cats should be protected from direct sunlight outdoors. Clean, potable water must be accessible.
There are requirements for veterinarian examinations for cats or dogs sold for resale or adoption by dealers. It will be illegal for retailers or dealers to sell a dog or cat knowing they have an illness or other condition requiring hospitalization. Retailers and dealers are required to keep business licenses and submit to annual inspections.
Dogs which constantly bark or disturb the peace can be declared a public nuisance and their owners subject to court action.
People cited by the animal control officer for violations of the ordinance may appeal their case to the animal advisory committee. Penalties for violations of the ordinance, a misdemanor, can be levied up to $1,000 or up to six months in jail.