Animal control rules get updated
A “fowl” duty will no longer be the responsibility of the Sonoma Planning Commission when the City Council adopts new regulations for the control of animals at an upcoming meeting.
Chickens will no longer need a license from the commission to reside in the city, nor will bees and rabbits. And the commission will no longer determine if a lot size is adequate to accommodate a fourth dog, or hear appeals regarding all of the above.
The changes, which will appear in the Municipal Code, include streamlining, process modifications and deletion of obsolete references, such as the proper width for a hitching post. They were unanimously adopted by the Planning Commission at a recent meeting.
The recommendations were developed after the council, last year, considered adding a section to animal regulations prohibiting vicious dogs. At a council meeting, Bob Edwards, of Sonoma Valley Dog Owners and Guardians, argued that “there are no vicious dogs in Sonoma.” He said most bites reported are from chihuahuas. Nevertheless, the ordinance will now provide a definition of what constitutes a vicious or potentially dangerous dog, and establishes procedures for governing them. Exemptions are also provided.
Assisting the police in developing the Municipal Code changes were SVDOG and Pets Lifeline. Last February, Edwards presented the City Council with 23 modifications his group wanted to include in the ordinance. Although the Council did not take official action, those changes were also considered when preparing the new regulations.
Police Chief Bret Sackett said that, within the city limits, there are currently 10 permits for chickens, two for bees and none for rabbits. Instead of requiring a permit in the future, staff will rely on standards of care that are set up in the zoning regulations.
“We feel there is little risk, but we can abate a use if it is problematic,” he said.
One of the major revisions to the code will be the designation of a hearing officer to hear requests for a fourth dog or cat, or to review appeals. In the past, requests for a fourth animal (the code allows three), came before the Planning Commission. The hearing officer could be a volunteer with animal expertise, or a professional hired on an occasional, per diem basis.
Other new sections cover such topics as public noticing, prohibited conduct, exotic animal permits, bite notification, picking up waste, and unattended animals left in hot cars.
Another revision reduces the leash length from eight feet to six feet, and the nuisance requirement from “barking and howling heard more than 100 feet away,” to “barking and howling that interferes with the reasonable use and enjoyment of private residential property.”
Commissioners suggested adding a section that pertains to where dogs can be walked downtown. Currently, dogs are prohibited in the Plaza, except on the perimeter sidewalk. Others brought up concerns about sheep used for weed control, and the Clydesdales on Spain Street, which are a permitted non-conforming use.
The Code section covers all animals within the city limits.