NOTE: This article has been updated, edited and expanded based on reader feedback. The original article erroneously said that the ordinance governs enforcement of criminal activity associated with commercial animal facilities. Violations could be criminal under state law, but violations of the ordinance would be civil violations, according to county staff. Readers are encouraged to watch the complete hearing online (the March 8 meeting).
The Washoe County Board of County Commissioners approved today its animal ordinance that governs enforcement of
criminal activity associated with animal health and welfare at commercial animal businesses, such as boarding operations and pet stores.
Bobby Smith, the county’s animal services manager, said that the new code, developed with the City of Reno, falls in line with state law and guidelines from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The ordinance requires a program of veterinary care so animals are cared for, healthy and safe, Smith said.
The ordinance has been heard in front of the commissioners four times and has been in development for two years, Smith said; however, it was noted by Commissioner Jeanne Herman that the matter was in front of the board seven times.
The county clarified this point:
- The item came before the Board of County Commissioners and the Board asked staff to split the commercial animal permit for pets and the traveling exhibits into two codes.
- The second time, staff was asked to do some refining of code language based on public input and direction from the BCC.
- The third time, there was a filing technicality issue with the report itself, so staff had to pull it.
- The first reading was approved Feb. 23 at the (county commission) meeting
- The second reading (was yesterday and it was approved).
Smith added that all businesses have the opportunity to meet with county personnel to ensure their operations are in compliance with the updated ordinance.
Permits can be revoked for ordinance violations, said Paul Lipparelli of the Washoe County D.A.’s office.
A business’ permit could be occur if the business owner has criminal convictions and permit violations, said Smith. Business owners can request a hearing if a permit is revoked.
Some citizens have been protesting the ordinance, calling it unconstitutional. The ordinance allows for “animal control officers to enter the premises for unscheduled inspections during normal business hours.”
Other concerns were that the ordinance only applies to commercial, for-profit entities and not non-profits. County legal staff said this distinction does not exceed the county’s authority.
Katherine Snedeker, who said she boards horses, asked, “Who gave animal control that authority? You’re just making up laws willy nilly.”
Dog trainer Barry O’Dea urged caution about passing the ordinance. “We’re going to have a major problem with this (ordinance). The criteria of this doesn’t fit with what we do,” he said.
Commissioner Marsha Bergbikler countered that “all we’re doing is trying to update our regulations. We’re already doing this.”
Commissioner Herman wanted to postpone voting on the ordinance but did not receive support from the other commissioners.
She voted against the ordinance.