The Quay County Commission on Friday approved the formation of a committee to draft a new animal ordinance.
The commission decision followed a tabling of a proposed animal control ordinance, which drew concerns from numerous residents.
Commission Chairman Bill Curry said the commission has been working on an ordinance for two years, and adoption of one is inevitable. But he also noted that an ordinance must satisfy certain requirements to be approved, including prior publication and opportunities for public comments and suggestions.
Commissioners felt creating the committee would result in an ordinance that would hold irresponsible pet owners responsible while not punishing responsible ones.
C.J. Weigel, who lives 3 miles west of Tucumcari, said he has encountered numerous problems with loose dogs, including one incident where an aggressive dog charged at him, his wife and his granddaughter in their own driveway.
"There are dogs, which have chased me aggressively as I rode a bike five miles from my house along a county road,' Weigel said. "I shouldn't have to worry about my health or the health of my family when we are using public roads."
Many of the residents at the Friday meeting supported an ordinance allowing the Quay County Sheriff's Office to deal with animals that pose immediate threats or are constant nuisances. But they were also concerned that the ordinance would negatively affect their finances and property rights.
Tom Sidwell, a county resident, said he didn't have a problem with controlling animals infringing on another resident's rights. But he does have a problem with a proposed limit of four animals, and a requirement to pay $50 for a kennel license if there are more pets.
"I have 13 barn cats," county resident Fred Porter said, "and I cannot see the point of paying $50 a year for them to keep the mice out of my feed."
John Gilbertson said he too has barn cats to take care of rodents, and the county would be wasting its time trying to prevent a cat from wandering onto somebody else's property.
"I resent the fact that you want to try and control a cat," Gilbertson said.
Christina Fleming, a county resident, said a proposed limit of four dogs or cats older than three months is stricter than city regulations, and without an allowance for visiting animals, she might be susceptible to a misdemeanor charge if somebody visiting her home brings a pet.
County Commissioner Brad Bryant said the ordinance is not designed to target responsible pet owners, but to address those who have presented problems.
Sidwell countered that the ordinance doesn't make distinctions between good pet owners and bad ones.
"This commission will not always be in office, and we will eventually have a new sheriff and deputies," Sidwell said. "Those who fill those offices and positions will have to follow the ordinance as it is written."
Sue Dowell agreed with Sidwell, noting you can't just pick and choose when you enforce an ordinance. Bryant said exceptions could be built into the ordinance, but Tenth Judicial District Court Senior Trial Attorney Tom Blakeney said, "One person's exception is another person's loophole."
The concerns, Curry said, justified the increased public input opportunities a committee would provide.
"This is a difficult matter to try and sort out," Curry said. "We want and are asking the residents for help to design something that will work for everyone."