Sunday, January 29, 2017

Alaska: Fairbanks Borough Assembly approves fines for unjustified killing of loose pets

ALASKA --  After the outcry over the recent killings of pet dogs, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly on Thursday night approved stiff fines for the unjustified killing of loose pets.

The assembly approved the ordinance on a 7-1 vote that will add monetary fines for animal cruelty and neglect to the borough’s list of citations. It also will require someone who kills or injures an animal to notify the owner or animal control within one day or face a $100 fine. The ordinance allows for self-defense from threatening or aggressive animals.

The legislation is a direct response to local outcry over the shooting of a dog December in Goldstream Valley. Details of the shooting are contested by the shooters and owner of the pet, but animal owners have been frustrated that the Alaska State Troopers have not investigated the case.

“It’s my understanding that the Alaska State Troopers aren’t necessarily actively enforcing these incidents whether it’s staffing, insufficient evidence or other reasons,” said Assemblyman Andrew Gray, who co-authored the ordinance with Presiding Officer Kathryn Dodge. “But if the borough has an option of an animal cruelty code, this gives people another route even if it’s a violation.”

The intentional killing of an animal except for hunting, trapping, the humane killing of one’s own animal and killing an animal in defense of life and property was once a violation of borough law, but the violation was removed in a revision of borough code. The assembly recently decided to reinvest in enforcing borough code.

More than 20 people testified on the ordinance and nearly all supported the measure. A handful of the supporters said they, too, had pets that were killed after getting loose. Mark and Jacquie Richards said their two retriever mixes, Teddy and Bear, were killed in North Pole some 30 minutes after getting loose on a walk but didn’t discover their fates until weeks later.

Maggie Richards was near tears while describing the ordeal, saying she believed the man who shot the dogs did it for sport and refused to offer an explanation, denying it altogether for weeks.

“My husband and son went over and confronted them man, finally, and he finally admitted and pointed to the direction where our dogs were,” she said. “He lied at least four times prior to this conversation. He never offered any explanation or apology. ... Current laws and ordinances do nothing to help the situation. Laws indicate it’s legal to shoot animals that are vicious and threatening. Teddy and Bear were not threatening. Our hearts are grieved, but justice has not been served.”

After the often-emotional testimony, Assemblyman John Davies immediately offered an amendment that increased the fines for animal cruelty. The amendment, which was approved 7-1 with Assemblyman Lance Roberts voting against it, increased the fines from $100 for the first violation to $500 and $1,000 for the second offenses, up from $200 and $300, respectively.

Roberts was opposed to the ordinance, saying that the intentionally unjustified killing of an animal is a crime and should be treated as such. He also warned that proving intent in these cases is near-impossible because the borough lacks police powers.

“What this ends up being, this unenforceable code, is it’s a feel-good ordinance,” he said. “We have this bad thing happen and all these other tragedies mentioned, and we’re going to create a law that doesn’t actually solve the problem or do anything and we’re not going to be able to enforce it with the powers we have. People are going to feel good because they thought we did something. I don’t think we need to fill our code with a lot of feel-good statutes.”

Davies countered that the measure is a “statement by our community” that the actions taken recently to kill nonthreatening stray dogs is unacceptable.

“It’s not going to be prevent all the crime from happening, everybody understand that, but what it does do it set a standard of behavior we expect them to follow,” he said. “And in those particularly egregious situations, it provides a tool to address the bad circumstances, and I feel that’s what the people in Goldstream Valley felt. There wasn’t a standard in place, we had taken it off the books.”

(NewsMiner - Jan 27, 2017)


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