Auburn studies dog rules

Pitbull supporters assemble to protest breed-specific regulations
By: Michelle Miller-Carl Journal News Editor
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Pitbull supporters turned out for the Auburn City Council meeting Monday night to hear a status report on updates to the city’s animal regulations, including any that may target the breed. California law does not allow banning a specific dog breed, however local governments can enact breed-specific legislation related to spaying, neutering or breeding. The city took up the issue in response to four pitbulls that attacked a teenager in Downtown Auburn in September. Staff is currently researching spay, neuter and breeding requirements for pitbulls or all dogs within the city. The cities of San Francisco, Santa Rosa and Manteca have enacted ordinances related to pitbull spay or neutering. No local jurisdictions were found to have any similar ordinances, according to the staff report. However, enacting a breed-specific ordinance also brings with it additional reporting and paperwork for the state. A higher license fee for unaltered dogs is also being considered. Currently, the city charges $12 for a dog license. “We would have to raise the fee enough to encourage people to spay and neuter,” said Community Development Director Wilfred Wong. Staff is also considering limiting the number of dogs per household to lessen the “pack mentality,” Wong said, and expanding leash and anti-roaming laws and penalties. Council members questioned how the city would be able to identify pitbulls, or whether staff would have enough time to complete additional reporting and enforcement of any breed-specific regulations. Laura Pinnick, founder and avid user of the Ashley Memorial Dog Park, said unneutered males can give off an odor that might cause other dogs to react with aggression. “I support having all dogs neutered or spayed, not just one breed,” she said. “They can all have the same problem.” The meeting also drew one canine member in the audience, Lucky, a pitbull service animal bred by Ryan Johnston of Sacramento. Lucky’s owner, who suffers from fibromyalgia, could not attend the meeting. “He’s an ambassador for the breed,” Johnston said. “They can’t stick up for themselves in council meetings. They don’t have a voice so we need to give them a voice.” The council was hearing a status report on animal regulations Monday and did not take action on the item. In another agenda item Monday, the council voted not to send a representative on the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Cap-to-Cap lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. However Councilman Mike Holmes will be attending and paying his own way on the trip, which costs $3,295 per delegate. “The fact that we make an extra effort to actually go back carries a lot of weight,” said Holmes, who has been on previous Cap-to-Cap trips. “I’m planning to go anyway, whether the city wants to help or not.” But Councilman Kevin Hanley questioned the expenditure. “The way I look at this item is can we achieve our objective without sending somebody?” Hanley said. “I’m concerned about the message it’s sending the public to spend taxpayer dollars to send somebody to do what we normally could (through representatives).” Mayor Bridget Powers expressed her support for the program, which helps local officials gain support for their projects in Washington. “If you’re not sitting at the table, you’re forgotten,” Powers said. “I don’t think the expense is so outrageous to not send a representative from our community.” The council voted 4-1 to have staff prepare “issue papers” on the projects they’d like to address —Lincoln Basin drainage infrastructure, an Electric Street storm water diversion pipeline and Regional Sewer Project in Lincoln. Hanley cast the dissenting vote. Following that vote, Kirby moved to send Mayor Powers as the city’s representative on the lobbying trip. The motion was not seconded. ------------------ Council notes In other business Monday night, the city council authorized staff to conduct a search for a contract airport manager. The position, which has been vacant since 2008, would put a manager at the Auburn Airport site for 20 hours a week. Increasing activity at the airport, including capital projects and lease inquiries at the Airport Industrial Park, have led to a need for a manager, the staff report says. “Continuing to manage the Airport with existing resources may limit the City’s ability to ultimately transform the Airport into a self-sustaining economic entity that can be enjoyed by all community user groups,” the report reads. The Airport Enterprise Fund is expected to generate an operating profit that would pay for the position. Salary would be negotiated with applicants depending on their qualifications and returned to the council for consideration, City Manager Bob Richardson said.