Homer bans pets in back of pickups

HOMERHomer has made amendments to the city’s animal control laws that ban a practice some might think of as Alaskan as log cabins and flannel shirts: letting your dog ride loose in the back of a pickup truck.

The Homer City Council banned the practice at its regular meeting Monday night.

As of Tuesday when the law took effect, pet owners in the city limits can be fined $75 if dogs, pigs, goats and any domestic animal are not restrained in open truck beds.

The law affects not just big dogs riding in the back of trucks, but little dogs or cats riding loose in passenger cars if they’re on a driver’s lap or on a dashboard and can interfere with the driver’s control or vision.

Ordinance 16-38(S) and the changes to animal control laws came about as recommendations of the Sustainable Animal Control Review Committee. The council formed that group in 2015 to make the animal shelter more sustainable. As part of its work, the committee recognized that city animal control laws needed revision.

The ordinance prohibits driving a motor vehicle an animal rides in unless the animal is prevented from falling, jumping or being thrown from the vehicle. Methods used include confining in the passenger compartment, confinement in an area that is fully enclosed on all sides to a height of at least 46 inches, confinement by tethering and confinement in a secure container or cage. Sled dogs carried in dog boxes or show dogs in airline kennels would be legal.

The ordinance also makes changes in wording and clarifies points such as when an animal is under

voice control. For example, it changes “competent voice control” to “under the direct control of a competent person.” Animals can be off leash if engaged in activity or training requiring them not to be physically controlled, such as bird-dog training, provided the animal is under voice control.

No one testified in a public hearing on the ordinance. However, one citizen, Dorothy Metambianakis, wrote letters questioning the confinement provisions.

“Is this for the safety of the animal?” she wrote “Is this for the safety of drivers? … Is this for the safety of people getting harassed by dogs jumping out of vehicles?”

She said the council had not properly discussed the need for confinement regulations.

In an Aug. 4 letter, Metambianakis also pointed out a substitute ordinance had not been properly noticed. Ordinance 16-38(S) was introduced at the June 27 council meeting and scheduled for second reading at the Aug. 8 meeting. In response to Metambianakis’ concern and a recommendation by City Clerk Jo Johnson, the council postponed the ordinance to Monday’s meeting.

Council member Donna Aderhold introduced an amendment changing the tethering requirement. The original ordinance said an animal could be restrained by cross tethering. Aderhold changed that to read “tethering in a manner that retains the animal’s front and hind legs in a vehicle.”

Her amendment passed, and the council approved the ordinance without objection.

• Michael Armstrong is a reporter for the Homer News.

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