Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Albuquerque NM:The Least Dog Friendly City in America

Brief background

About 3 years ago, a city councilwoman sponsored an animal ordinance in Albuquerque. Despite attempts by many individuals and groups within Albuquerque and surrounding areas to have the City simply enforce the existing ordinance, the Mayor finally signed HEART (Humane and Ethical Animal Rules and Treatment) into law June 6, 2006. The law was to go into effect August 22, 2006. An attempt to collect sufficient signatures on petitions to force a referendum vote on HEART was not successful. This was mainly due to the fact that the media (print, radio and TV) was solidly behind the City and there simply wasn't enough money available to purchase media coverage. In early August, the City Council entertained an "emergency" motion to postpone the date of the law being effective until October 10, 2006. The effect this had was (intentionally in my opinion) to shove the new Animal Ordinance to the back of everyone's mind . . .
perhaps it would be postponed again, etc. Efforts that were ongoing after the failure of the petition drive met with even more inertia from city residents after the postponement of the law. The AKC kennel club in Albuquerque, along with individual members who had business interests within the City or who lived outside the City but would be required to comply with aspects of the new law, filed a lawsuit against the City in early August. The City responded with several motions to dismiss claims contained within the lawsuit. The Court moved this case through the judicial system with all speed and the case was dismissed in September.
It has been appealed but the law went into effect October 10, 2006.

Current status

The Mayor has gone on record in several public venues as stating that the law would be "selectively" enforced. As it stands right now, HEART applies to every animal in the City limits. Animal is defined by the City as "non-human mammal, bird, amphibian and reptile" and includes all wild animals as well as domestic ones.

While the City states in the Findings section preceding the law that this law will not affect responsible animal owners, it is hard to imagine how it cannot unless one accepts the City's premise that ALL animal owners are irresponsible.

Some of the aspects of the law that will not affect responsible animal owners - it is an act of animal cruelty to withhold water at night while housetraining a puppy. It is an act of animal cruelty not to provide "constant access" to water to any animal. (By this definition it is an act of animal cruelty to walk your dog so anyone who walks their dog, by the City's definition is not a responsible animal owner.) It is an act of animal cruelty to crate your dog in a crate that is not greater than the minimum size required of a boarding kennel. It is an act of cruelty to violate the Leash Law. The definition of a secure enclosure is one where an animal cannot come into contact with another animal or human. So even though the City allows a resident to keep up to four dogs without a special permit, the City also makes it illegal to put more than one dog out in the yard at a time.

The multitude of inconsistencies in the law make it difficult to determine what actually is and isn't permitted. However, not to worry -- these provisions will only be "selectively" enforced. So unless you happen to live next to someone who doesn't like you and complains to ACC, or have the wrong breed, or live in the wrong neighborhood, or have the wrong surname, etc. you should be just fine in breaking the law and committing acts of animal cruelty without facing punishment.

The new law enables ACC to confiscate any animal on a citation - not a conviction - for animal cruelty. That includes having your dog walk from your front door to your vehicle off leash unless the front yard and driveway is completely fenced. The law specifically states that "verbal control" is not sufficient even on your own property.

Any business (other than veterinarians) dealing with animals must now purchase an Animal Services Provider Permit in addition to a business license. Any conviction for animal cruelty makes one unable to obtain such a permit and thus unable to maintain doing business in the City of Albuquerque.

My business is down even more than the normal pre-holiday slump. Somehow I get the feeling it is related to the fact that I'm now having to ask potential clients and students to sign a release exempting me from liability if they get cited for animal cruelty for following training advice that is illegal in the City.

Future Concern

The Mayor of Albuquerque has higher political aspirations. He is pushing for HEART or a similar statute to be passed at the state level in the January 2007 legislative session. He has already told the surrounding counties that the City will penalize any county that does not adopt a similar ordinance. At the current time, the unincorporated part of Bernalillo County is currently contemplating changing the existing animal ordinance and changes have been proposed to the ordinance in part of Sandoval County (where I live) and the Village of Los Ranchos.

Politics plays a huge role in the future of owning any kind of animal.
Animal rights organizations are currently funding many political campaigns for candidates at all levels of government (this is how HEART was sponsored in Albuquerque) so to say that discussing politics is bad form on a list devoted to professionals in animal related fields is not being realistic about what is currently occurring.

As Margot noted, Dog Fancy listed Albuquerque as one of the top ten dog friendly cities in the US. I'm not real optimistic about the future of any animals in the US anymore.

Jan Gribble NADOI #925
IACP #1016
ABC Dog Training LLC - Albuquerque, NM - (505) 410-5810 abcdogtraining@juno.com - www.newmexicodogtraining.com

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:00 PM

    does mayor marty no like animals? I'm not sure what the goal is here but it feels much like the policy towards terrorists - those bad few punish the remaining innocents. I don't feel pets are welcome in albuquerque...