New Animal Ordinances Approved by County Commission

Pair of Degus. Source: Wikipedia Commons, JSx at English Wikipedia, 2007.
Pair of Degus. Source: Wikipedia Commons, JSx at English Wikipedia, 2007.

Washoe County’s new animal ordinances passed at yesterday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting in spite of a number of people speaking against the new rules.

The ordinances mean the elimination of the County Animal Services Board, new permit requirements for exotic animals, and new insurance requirements for exotic animal owners — among a number of changes.

Rules Contested

Those protesting against the ordinances accused the county of not taking their views into consideration. The insurance requirements are too onerous, they said, and placing exotic animals in a tiered system unfairly puts some safe animals on a dangerous animal list.

Duplicative regulations from other entities were also cited.

Speaking during public comment, exotic animal owner Sam McCall said: “My own biggest problem with it is the requirement of liability insurance for several of the tier 2 species.

“As I mentioned the last meeting, I mostly keep several species of exotic rodents,” he continued. “I already have to go through the Nevada Department of Wildlife for those rodents. But I do have to pay permitting fees and have permits for those types of animals, but now, with this proposed ordinance, I would have to pay … $24,000 insurance per animal for all my small rodents, like a degu.

“A degu is a non-aggressive rodent,” he said. “I’d have to pay $24,000 for all of my degus … my prairie dogs, or my ground squirrels. That’s ridiculous. I can’t afford that.”

Critics of the ordinances said that the new rules are so burdensome that they will force exotic animal owners underground.

Support For Ordinances

Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey.
Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey.

Jill Dobbs, executive director of the SPCA of Northern Nevada, however, praised the ordinances for their consideration to public safety and the welfare of the animals.

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County Commissioner Bob Lucey said that the new ordinances were well-vetted and he had them verbally approved by the state veterinarian, Dr. J.J. Goicoechea.

“He feels confident this is the right measure for us to move forward with,” Lucey said.

Washoe County Commissioner Jeanne Herman.

“After over 4 years of hard work by our staff and working with the community, we are very pleased the commissioners … approved these needed changes that are in the interest of public safety, responsible pet ownership, and animal welfare,” said Shyanne Schull, the county’s director of regional animal services. “Our mission is to promote responsible care of animals and to help make Washoe County a safe community, and we believe today’s action enables us to do that.”

The changes passed.  Commissioners Vaughn Hartung and Jeanne Herman voted against the exotic animals ordinance.

“It’s the most unconstitutional thing we can do to these animal owners,” Herman said.

CORRECTION: the original article only indicated Herman’s vote against the ordinance. Commissioner  Vaughn Hartung also made a nay vote.

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