“It’s going to be tough,” Funding, efficiency questioned under menacing dog ordinance

OKLAHOMA CITY - Ever since two dogs killed Cecile Short and her pet in April, city leaders have done their best to ensure it doesn't happen again.

The result is a new ordinance, coming before the city council Tuesday, that would create a registry of dangerous animals. It would also microchip and spay or neuter all impounded animals before their release.

"We're to the point where we have to do something," said Jon Gary, superintendent at Oklahoma City Animal Welfare. "It's going to allow us to better manage the dangerous and menacing animals that we have here. I think it's going to be beneficial to our citizens and to the animals that live in Oklahoma City."

A dog will be defined as "menacing" if it exhibits behaviors that lead animal control officers to believe it could attack at some point - like growling, snarling, charging or damaging property like fencing.

The ordinance will allow the city to better manage the complaints it already receives, Gary said. Microchipping will help with overpopulation and should make it easier to return animals to their owners.

"That's the whole goal behind this ordinance is ultimately we hope it decreases our workload, decreases the number of animals living in the community, addresses the overpopulation problem," Gary said.

There will be an added workload and cost, at least initially, according to a memo from council. It lists the cost as "unknown" but cites an increased workload for animal welfare officers and veterinary staff.

Purchasing additional microchips would cost an additional $15,000, according to the memo.

Those costs could create obstacles for a department that is already tight on money and stretched thin on staffing.

"It's going to be tough. We are going to have to find ways to get creative, work with our partners more," Gary said. "Manpower is definitely an issue. It is a struggle with the number of staff we have and the volume of calls we receive every year. Getting to all these calls is going to be tough."

Not impossible though, Gary said, adding he anticipates the number of cases to remain unchanged.

"I just think it's going to allow us to manage the ones we do have better," he said.

Last year, animal welfare responded to roughly 100 dangerous or menacing dog complaints.

The ordinance will bring in some money, as well.

Registration on the dangerous or menacing dog list would cost owners $12 a year.

The City Council is holding a public hearing on the ordinance Tuesday. A final hearing and vote is scheduled for June 27.