San Leandro Police Lieutenant Mike Sobek said an animal control ordinance that will come before the city council on December 3 strikes a balance between those who want to raise chickens and bees in their backyards, and neighbors who may be bothered by smell, noise and/or allergies.
Sobek said a Patch article in which critics described the ordinance as being "hijacked" by SLPD was one-sided and overlooked the fact that animal control is a police function.
"People don't realize how much animal control activity there is," Sobek said. This includes calls to remove dead animals and chase nuisances. The department now has one full-time animal control officer. A half time position will be added in January. He said the need for additional animal control help is being evaluated.
The draft ordinance drew three main critiques:
- not enough flexibility for backyard farmers;
- permits and fees that would add expenses for citizens and the city;
- tighter rules on pets including a ban on tying up dogs out of the street, known as tethering.
Sobek said the city must look at the needs of all residents, not just its backyard farmers, and he maintained that the proposed ordinance allows neighbors to have some say in what goes on next door while legalizing chickens and bees.
The new ordinance will add permit fees. Sobek said the plan is to seek council passage of the ordinance first and figure out a fee schedule later.
As for the dog rules, Sobek said anyone who was surprised that there is a limit on dogs per household (now two but slated to rise to three) should not be alarmed.
"We don't have a dog police who are going to knock on people's doors and ask how many dogs they have," he said.
Instead the ordinance will allow police to issue citations when complaints of aggressive dog behavior, excessive noise or cruel animal conditions prompt them to investigate.
Similarly a proposed ban against "tethering" dogs outside stores while owners shop will be applied on a common sense basis to give police the authority to issue citations when dogs threaten passersby or are left in unsafe conditions.
Otherwise, he said, police have better things to do than do street stops on dog owners.