OGDEN -- A newly written animal control ordinance has been presented before Weber County officials. Drafters hope that new regulations will lead to better animal safety, but for some residents, the ordinance might not impact the treatment of pets in any significant way.
"There are so many different animal ordinances to enforce in Weber County, and there was a discussion that we do a comprehensive animal ordinance," said Sheriff's Lt. Chad Ferrin, who runs the Weber County Animal Shelter.
"We provide animal control service to the bulk of Weber County."
The ordinance still has to be approved by the city councils of every town in the county in order to go into effect. Pleasant View, South Ogden and Riverdale still maintain their own animal control services, and all have differing rules than the ones set forth in the new ordinance.
Ferrin said the ordinance, which is not available to view in its entirety yet, includes new regulations about quarantining animals for issues related to behavior and the threat of rabies, fees for animal abandonment, and the numbers of cats and dogs allowed at a residence. However, some of the issues in the ordinance point to a larger problem looming over Weber County that is not addressed by the new ordinance.
"On average, in a community like Ogden, for example, less than about 30 percent of residents license their animals. I know by reading reports from my officers that they are encountering people who do not license their animals on almost a daily basis," Ferrin said.
New laws concerning animal treatment and care might be on a statewide agenda as well. Ferrin's description mirrors a recent report by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which ranked Utah one of the worst states in the country for animal protection laws. Actively seeking out pet owners with unlicensed animals might be a useful addition to the ordinance.
Not licensing a dog, for example, means that an owner is less likely to get a rabies vaccination for the pet. Even though Weber County has not had a significant problem with rabies in domestic animals for several years, it could pose huge risks if is there is a breakout in unvaccinated domestic dogs and cats.
"We use licensing as a way of getting the rabies vaccine for the pets, since the owners are told to get the shot when they apply for a license. It is a 100 percent fatal disease, and we are looking for total eradication of it. Back East, in places like West Virginia, they get multiple positives in domestic animals each month," Clint Thacker, the director of Davis County's animal services, said.
The first step in getting domestic animals protected from rabies, and regulated for other potential dangers, would be getting licensed, but some Weber residents find it hard to do so.
"It would be all on my part to contact them. They should be accessible for that kind of regulation," Ron Wedmore, a Harrisville resident and pet owner, said.
Weber County Animal Control sends reminders to already-licensed pet owners, and there is a web page that gives them the opportunity to sign up for licensing online or call to get more information, but some new residents still find licensing difficult.
"A lot of cities, they'll transfer no problem, but in Weber, it was a little hard to even get information about what it might cost and where to go," said Steven Draper, who owns one dog and was eventually able to obtain a license.
The ordinance will need to be approved by a smattering of city governments before its adoption into Weber County law is final.