The Prestonsburg City Council approved an ordinance on Tuesday to place restrictions on animal control in the city.

The vote came after concerns were raised by three people in the audience, including Charles Neeley, who said the ordinance “appears to be deficient in respect of being unconstitutional by virtue of abiding by the fourth amendment, overreaching and unnecessarily burdensome.”

He also complained that because of those deficiencies, the ordinance should be revised to address “bonafide issues without violating our Constitutional rights, without overreaching the proper place and authority of the city government and without creating an unnecessary burden to pet owners.” He said the ordinance should also be revised to correct errors in addressing state law and “inconsistencies” in the proposed ordinance. He claimed council members and Mayor Les Stapleton that he talked to informed him that not all provisions in the ordinance would be enforced, and suggested that “selective enforcement” would undermine this and other ordinances the city has.

“Why is the council interested in making it more cumbersome to have pets?” he asked. “License fees, private kennel inspections, private kennel fees for having — I couldn’t really tell from the ordinance if it was over three or over four animals. But in any case, there’s additional fees and inspection. There’s also requirements about dog bedding requirements and requirements regarding dogs being brought in from outdoors in certain temperatures. Such restrictions, they actually may be counter productive in discouraging citizens from taking in stray animals and discouraging citizens from adopting animals by making it more burdensome.”

Two others in the audience voiced concerns about provisions in the ordinance that allow police officers to come onto private property in search for a dog that has bitten someone and provisions that requires people who purchase licenses and those who own multiple animals to pay a private kennel fee.

“Guys, I just don’t want another tax,” one of them said.

Prestonsburg Police Det. Ross Shurleff addressed the concern about the dog running at large, explaining that the law permits him to go onto private property in search for an animal that has bitten someone if there is a danger to the public. He said he “has a duty” to deal with the dog if there is a danger to the public.

In response to comments about the ordinance encroaching on Constitutional rights, Council Member Shag Branham, who served on the committee that amended the city’s prior ordinance, said he doesn’t feel the changes do that. He said the changes in the ordinance better define animal abuse and neglect so it’s easier for law enforcement to handle those types of investigations.

Prestonsburg Attorney Jennifer Elliott explained that the city’s ordinance is not more restrictive that laws already on the books in Kentucky. In response, Neeley referenced a part of the ordinance that gives the mayor authority to “have all dogs muzzled in the city” during a rabies outbreak, instead of the health department, which he said is detailed in the state law.

The vote to approve the ordinance was unanimous.

Mayor Les Stapleton told those in opposition of it, “We appreciate your input. We really do. We’re not going to be stepping on people’s rights.”

He invited them to future meetings.

The full ordinance may be viewed at Prestonsburg City Hall.

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