Eureka reins in launch of updated animal ordinance

Workshop planned to discuss community concerns

The city of Eureka is postponing having a second look at the newly drafted animal ordinance until a public workshop can be held to address residents’ concerns. (Times-Standard file photo)
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The city of Eureka is postponing moving forward with a draft animal ordinance that would have placed new restrictions on the number of pets residents in the city can have.

After receiving complaints from residents, Eureka City Manager Greg Sparks said the city decided to hold off on bringing the ordinance before the Eureka City Council for a second reading. Instead the City Council will hold a study session, likely sometime in November, to go over residents’ concerns, said the Eureka city attorney, Autumn Luna, who helped draft the ordinance.

“The previous iteration of the animal code was silent on how many animals you could own,” Luna said. “That obviously can lead to some problematic results, but based on concerns from citizens we are going to have a workshop and talk to residents that are concerned about that issue in particular.”

The draft animal ordinance that was presented to the Eureka City Council on Oct. 1 limited residents to owning no more than six of any combination of dogs, cats, potbelly pigs or miniature goats.

The intention to put limits on the number of animals a person can have is to ensure people don’t get more animals than they can reasonably take care of, Luna said.

The draft ordinance states residents can have: no more than three dogs over four months old, no more than three cats over four months old, no more than one potbelly pig over four weeks old, no more than two miniature goats over four weeks old, 10 small mammals such as hamsters and mice, 20 rabbits on properties less than 5,000 square feet and 30 rabbits on all other properties.

The draft ordinance limited the number of total combined chickens and ducks a person could own on a property less than 5,000 square feet to 10 and to 20 for those on larger properties. Owning a rooster in the city wouldn’t be allowed without getting a variance from the city.

“The idea behind not having roosters is they’re a very loud animal,” said Eureka Police Department Capt. Brian Stephens. “It causes disturbances we have to deal with because most roosters crow early in the morning and often throughout the day.”

A variance would allow a person to request a public hearing with the city manager to determine if the ordinance was unreasonable or put undue hardship on that person, according to the draft ordinance.

Stephens said he’s received about a dozen or so residents’ emails from the City Council regarding the ordinance.

“The most common theme is the limits and then not having a grandfather clause in,” Stephens said. “People think we’re going to pass this ordinance and come take away their animals.”

But that wasn’t the purpose behind the ordinance, he said. The city doesn’t intend to come and take away people’s animals, Stephens said.

The reason the ordinance is being changed is because it’s 60 years old and has flaws that don’t allow animal control officer Celeste Villarreal to adequately address modern day challenges, he said.

“This gives us more tools to increase that quality of life,” Stephens said. “ … The whole idea behind the ordinance was public safety and animal safety.”

The ordinance would give the department the ability to address some of the complaints they get, he said.

The draft ordinance also included a new requirement for pet stores, grooming salons and similar businesses to get permitted every year through the animal control officer and be subject to unannounced inspections.

Ginger Casanova, owner of Fin-N-Feather pet shop in Henderson Center, said she agreed with parts of the animal ordinance, but thought that the permit requirement was just the city trying to collect another fee.

“Some of the things I agree with,” Casanova said. “It’s just frustrating. We already can’t sell bunnies. We’re already limited. There’s just all kinds of things that continually make it really hard for pet shops. So if it happens, it happens and I’ll do what I have to do.”

Stephens said the intention wasn’t to make money, but to ensure that the department has the ability to address complaints and make sure places that are operating as an animal care or service business are what they say they are.

“I think it’s important to have a permitting process for places that are going to be taking care of animals that’s slightly different than a place that’s not taking care of animals,” Stephens said.

To read the proposed ordinance, go to https://bit.ly/3258SJK.

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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