By Mark Waite
Nye County Animal Advisory Committee Chairman Scott Shoemaker last week said Pahrump Regional Planning Commission members should do their research before passing a bill handing off approval of exotic animal permits to the county commission or animal control.
Planner Steve Osborne said much of the language was copied from a Clark County ordinance where commissioners want to tighten regulations after the escape of two chimpanzees last summer.
Osborne presented two options, one in which the county commission would approve conditional use permits for exotic animals, the other in which the authority would rest with the Nye County animal control department.
Shoemaker said the proposal would remove ownership of exotic animals from the rural homestead 4.5-acre zone and the rural estates 2-acre zone, allowing them only on parcels zoned rural homestead of 9.5 acres or larger. Some owners have wolf hybrids on smaller lots, he said.
Shoemaker also objected to more strenuous liability insurance limits than Clark County of $100,000 for the owner of a hyena or a kangaroo to $1 million for the owner of a lion, tiger, venomous reptile or bear.
“In reading this, you also are required to have $100,000 insurance for dogs. That’s all dogs, regardless,” Shoemaker said. That’s because the liability insurance requirement covers the carnivora family, which includes dogs.
RPC member Jennifer McCall admitted, “I have to wonder why a buffalo is more dangerous than a hyena.”
Shoemaker said the animal advisory board discussed liability concerns at length in drafting revisions to Title 6 of the Nye County Code, the animal control ordinance.
“If you look at title 6 you are liable for any damages and injuries your animal inflicts,” Shoemaker said, who owns lions and tigers. “You’re telling people to spend money on something they may never need. We do have dangerous animals, once that determination is made, dangerous dogs, they may need liability insurance but that is a per instance.”
“We figure the money is better spent on fencing and cages,” he said.
Shoemaker said three conditions — that the applicant be at least 18 years old, have at least two years experience in the care and handling of the animals and not been convicted of state or federal wildlife regulations within three years or any offense involving cruelty to animals — is already in the newly revised Title 6 of the Nye County Code.
Which led Shoemaker to ask why the RPC wanted to give up responsibility for permitting exotic animals. RPC member Greg Hafen II said his board is just limited to land use issues. Recently they encountered the quandary when considering an application for a conditional use permit by Karl Mitchell for an animal sanctuary, which the RPC denied anyway but the county commission overruled them.
Mitchell was scheduled to appear on a request to revoke his conditional use permit but it was continued at Mitchell’s request due to medical reasons. An Oct. 22 letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture charged Mitchell lacked licenses required under the Animal Welfare Act and had been fined.
Shoemaker said, “Certain people in this town have warranted these actions and we’re the ones paying the consequences.”
He said Clark County initially approved requirements for the baby chimpanzees but never went back and upgraded their requirements.
Hafen said as an animal lover he didn’t want any one convicted of wildlife regulations at any time to be able to get a conditional use permit to own exotic animals.
“It’s my opinion if they’ve been convicted of cruelty to animals, I don’t care if it’s been three years or 20 years. I don’t think they should be allowed to keep animals on their property if they’ve already been convicted of that. I love animals and I think they should be treated properly,” Hafen said.
But he admitted to not being an expert on animals and took Shoemaker’s advice to let the animal advisory board consider it.
* The RPC deadlocked 3-3 on whether to approve a commercial kennel for Peter and Carmen Day at 2441 W. Mae Rd. in the far northern end of Pahrump, after suggesting a limit of 15 dogs, up to one litter per year, a ban on sales and dedication of road right-of-way. Carmen Day didn’t want to accept a limit of 20 dogs suggested at the November RPC meeting.
A commercial kennel permit is required if someone wants to own more than 10 dogs or cats. John Arriola, who represented the Days, said they have 12 dogs of the same breed.
“They’re very friendly, never barked at me once. They don’t breed dogs for profit, they’re not a commercial kennel, they do it for their own enjoyment, they show dogs. It’s like their children. There will be not be commercial traffic going to their kennel,” Arriola said.
RPC member Vicky Parker, in her last meeting, said people who want to possess more than 10 dogs shouldn’t be labeled as commercial. She suggested another category and added this is a 10-acre lot.
Neighbors Kathy Wedgeworth and Bobby Jarvis again voiced their objections.
“Why would you insist on bringing a commercial dog breeder into our very, very quiet, very residential area? It is so quiet in our area you can hear the wild burros bray, our neighbors walking on the rocks or having a conversation. We live on a narrow one-lane road serving seven houses,” Wedgeworth said.
King suggested a sign be put up for a 25 mph speed limit reducing the dust to neighbors who suffered from lung diseases. The road was offered for dedication but rejected by county commissioners, Public Works Director Dave Fanning said.
Hafen said the RPC has to find the conditional use will be adequately served by public services including streets, Fanning said Mae Road isn’t maintained by the county.