Letter To The Editor: Revise Animal Ordinance And Many Problems Will Disappear

By SHARON SCARLETT
Los Alamos

Editor’s note: The following letter was submitted to the County Council today.

Dear Councilors,

The reason that the Parks and Recreation Board is hearing complaints is that voice and sight control of dogs does not work. 

Revise the animal ordinance to delete Sec. 6-4, and many problems will disappear. When one class of people is given more freedom than another, the ordinance does not protect everyone. This policy has been the problem since it was created. 

I was appointed as the advisor (non-voting) to the animal ordinance revision committee that created the 2006 Ordinance. These are my observations of that process: 

The committee meetings were closed to the public. I was not allowed to lead a public discussion of pet owner responsibilities. The previous ordinance as well as the last revision was written by the same person. There needs to be real representative membership by a committee of users and experts. As a result of the process, the rules were written to give domestic dogs more freedom (Voice and Sight Control) as well as access to county space with a “trust me” policy inferred.

I was not in favor of the amended ordinance that designated that privilege. (Section 6-4).because it conflicts with Sec.6-3 which requires leashes for animals off their owner’s property. Voice and Sight Control is not considered a valid means of restraint of dogs in either Santa Fe or Albuquerque.

I recommended that funds collected by animal control not be turned over to the general fund, but used by animal control, since it generates revenue  and needs funds in the department for expenses  I also recommended licensing of domestic cats and it was deleted.

Assume responsibility for our comprehensive plan. Only after vision, goals and strategy are mapped out should Planning and Zoning finish it. There have been no calls for the public to begin this plan.  What happened to “engage citizenship” as the top priority of the 2005 plan? Hire a facilitator to guide the process and produce a meaningful vision. Assigning this process to Planning is revelatory.  The people have been cut out of the process because the County just wants to get on with a problem.

This statement from Wilmington, NC provides a simple statement of purpose:

“A comprehensive plan is a statement by the community of what it is today and what it would like to be in the future. A comprehensive plan is an official policy document, adopted by the City Council.”

Our open space management plan, written by Craig Martin, points out that “Clear visualization of the Open Space System would be a powerful tool for both drawing residents to utilize open space and making it easy for visitors to find and enjoy open space and trails. County trail maps and brochures should be revised to show open space. In addition, maps of the Open Space System should be provided to each County department and division to provide a reference to identify potential impacts of projects and actions on open space and trails.”

We are not good stewards of open space, our best natural resource. No one regulates all the land being used by clubs. The county should collect fees to provide funds to help restore needed areas.  Most of all, some trails should be restricted to humans only, and others as preservation lands. This gift of nature has been abused and neglected.

We need rules for parks and open space. This county residents want what they want all the time. Clubs and organizations are running the county open space. Utilize their expertise to advantage. But please preserve our open space. Enforce use in order to keep the peace. Link our ordinance to the requirements of the State Constitution, the County Charter and the code of ordinances. Link directly to our code of ordinances. Make this information available on the main webpage of the County.

A major need pointed out by  meeting attendees and forum respondents is that of more and better dog parks to serve our residents. If they have to ask for fences to protect their children from off-leash dogs, and for more dog parks, while those with unverified  and unenforceable voice and sight control are allowed not only all trails, but much of the county, then it is time to deal with our needs based on our vision.

Make our open space part of the Parks system. Give Parks and Open Space responsibility for its future. Give it a budget. Make a plan that serves the needs for accessibility. Albuquerque has addressed this issue on this website: http://www.cabq.gov/parksandrecreation/open-space/lands/accessibility

A map of wildlife corridors in the approved parks plan is troubling. Wildlife should be  supported, and crossing signs erected in the county. No development should interfere with these special areas.

My observation is that North Mesa Park was a jewel of open space. A tennis court, a bmx track, and a garden on the perimeter of a wildlife corridor have interfered with a designated place for quiet walks and viewing of wildlife and native plants. Why were we promised by a previous council that land to the east of north mesa park road would not be harmed, but left as open space?

We need a real dog park on North Mesa, not a token one. Define all land from the soccer fields east to North Mesa Park Road as a dog park. There is space enough to provide a separate park for small dogs only. Add native trees, plants and benches. Create a dirt parking lot that fills only the area required after tallying average use. Take mud volleyball to a different park.

One park cannot provide for the needs of everyone. North Mesa Park should be left alone until a comprehensive plan is approved by county residents. That plan should directly work with a parks comprehensive plan. They both affect open space. They should work together.

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