Controversial Pet Law Wins Approval

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If you've been procrastinating getting your pet chipped or licensed, now's the time to hop to it. The Houston city council today approved an amendment that eliminates a 30-day hold for prior pet owners before the city can get ownership of your lost or stray pet.

Life and death decisions on pets held at BARC Animal Shelter and Adoptions, could take place after a three and six day hold period that's always been in place.

The stickler for councilman Brad Bradford, the one dissenting vote, was the limited time for the holding period and the loss of property rights of animals, which he said went against due process. "We don't relinquish our property rights to nothin' within three to six days," he said.

Bradford wasn't advocating for extra hold time, but a grace period that allowed owners to claim their pets if first contact with the municipal shelter was unsuccessful.

"We'll be looked at as depriving citizens of property rights," Bradford said.

His idea for a grace period started to gain a little steam, going from 30 days to a plausible 15 days, but that amendment was defeated.

City Attorney David Feldman said the handing over of property rights was well within the law and had a precedent in state agriculture law. If a cow is stray for a period of time then the government has possession. It falls within the power of government under health safety and welfare, he said.

As is pertains to normal pets ,we've explained before:

Currently, the law provides a 30-day period for a prior owner to reclaim a pet, even if it's been adopted. Many in the rescue community, as well as officials with the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care, want to eliminate the 30-day period and allow the city to assume ownership after the current intake-hold period.

That would mean BARC would legally own an unidentified animal after three days, and an identified animal (with a name-tag, microchip, rabies tag, etc.) six days after the first attempted contact of the owner. (BARC Spokesman Chris Newport tells us that those hold periods are the industry standard).

The amount of space available to house the animals was one of the drives for BARC to change, with animal intakes hitting as high as 100 animals a day in the summer and the numbers breaking down to $26 a day for intake plus $12 to $14 additional a day to continue housing, according to Newport. The approval of the amendment was a win for him.

Other changes in the amendment included a strike against cat ladies because they can keep only a maximum of three adult cats or dogs in a residential property within 100 feet of another home.

"We're very grateful to the administration for ironing out the language," Jane West, a supporter of the amendment and vice president of Super Neighborhood Alliance 22. "It might be nice for them to consider a phase-in period," she said, so pet owners aren't totally caught off guard by the move.

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