By Mark Waite
Attorney Nancy Lord, a candidate for Fifth District Court judge, filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the county’s newly-enacted animal ordinance.
She asks for a declaratory judgment that it is unconstitutional.
Her separate request for a temporary restraining order against Nye County preventing enforcement of the ordinance was denied by Fifth District Judge Robert Lane Wednesday.
Lord’s petition in her lawsuit states she owns several mature and young dogs. Prior to Sept. 18, there was no limit on the number of spayed or neutered dogs in the county, she states.
The changes to Nye County Code Title 6 require anyone with more than five dogs or cats to obtain a residential kennel permit, at the discretion of animal control, which would allow keeping up to 10 dogs or cats. It is also unlawful to have more than two unspayed or unneutered dogs or cats over six months old, unless the owner has a pet fancier’s permit.
The ordinance mandates housing requirements for kennels with a minimum of seven-foot chain-link fence, covered at the top with tension bars and metal clamps to prevent escape. Concrete footings are required to prevent animals from digging out to escape, or buried chain link fence a minimum of three feet underground.
Lord’s petition claims, “anyone, including plaintiff, who cannot spend the thousands of dollars required and obtain the discretion of animal control would not be able to obtain release of their animal and defendant Nye County Animal Control would then kill the animals.”
Lord claims the new animal control ordinance doesn’t contain a provision for grandfathering owners of five dogs or cats who owned the pets before the ordinance was passed. She adds the ordinance wasn’t advertised in a newspaper of general circulation by law, at least once a week for a period of two weeks before it goes into effect.
Lord admits she exceeds the limits under the ordinance. She outlined her choices: apply for a kennel permit with the animal control department she claims “has already shown hostility” toward her in a visit on Oct. 17 and waive her fourth and fifth amendment rights, or risk being found out of compliance and seeing her animals killed.
Lord’s first cause of action states ordinance No. 430 criminalizes the acquisition of a pet and retroactively changes the legal consequence of acts committed prior to the enactment of the ordinance.
In her second cause of action, Lord states, “to allow Nye County Animal Control to search the home of persons forced to apply for a kennel permit under this ordinance is an unreasonable search.” The seizure of the animals is also a violation of the right to be free of unreasonable seizure, she states.
Nye County is also forcing people to bear witness against themselves, in requiring persons out of compliance to list all animals on their property, Lord states in her third cause of action.
The ordinance contains no provision for compensating people for the seizure of pets, a violation of the Constitution, she states in cause of action No. 4.
The killing of a pet seized because the owner isn’t in compliance and can’t afford to come into compliance with the new ordinance violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, Lord states in a fifth cause of action. It also violates their right to a hearing, she said and their right to privacy.
In a ninth cause of action, Lord states, “Nye County ordinance No. 430 was enacted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in the defendants Nye County selected only dogs and cats and did not apply the restriction to horses, birds, snakes, cows, goats, sheep, rabbits, ferrets or any other animal popular in Nye County.”
Lord also claims the county ordinance is inconsistent with state law which defines a kennel as a place where at least 10 dogs are kept for boarding, training or breeding. She said the ordinance added cats, which are highly unlikely to disturb neighbors.
In her petition for the restraining order, Lord feared her candidacy for fifth district judge could lead to an attempt by Nye County Animal Control to seize her dogs out of retaliation. She also mentions a visit from Susan Rydal of Nye County Animal Control last spring who claimed three of her four horses were too thin.
“I increased their feed, per the direction of Rydal, the two other older horses gained weight and I was reassured that it was not my fault,” Lord said.
But Lord said one horse died July 24 and she was served with a citation Oct. 17, she claims she will prove is without merit.
Lord said a dog had puppies in the spring and were out of her home Oct. 17 during Rydal’s visit, in addition to her several adult dogs.
“There is no way that Nye County Animal Control will issue me a kennel permit and in my opinion is using this ordinance to accumulate information on multi-pet households that can and will be used against them and to obtain the right to inspect their property without a warrant,” Lord said. “Had I known of this ordinance I would not have built a home on my property in 2008.”