FARMINGTON — Farmington City councilors during their Tuesday evening meeting opposed proposed revisions to a city code that would require residents to register their animals.
Mayor Tommy Roberts asked why residents should register their animals.
"There's going to be lots of people in the community who are seriously opposed to the registration program," he said.
Animal Advisory Commission Spokesman David Fosdeck, who stood before council to answer questions, said registration helps locate lost dogs, and the fees will help fund the city's spay-and-neuter program, which is essential to reduce overpopulation.
Roberts said he would not support registration if it's only goal was to generate revenue.
Roberts also asked how the city will enforce registration, how much it would cost and how the city would issue citations to those who don't comply.
Councilor Mary Fischer said the proposed registration process has an "undercurrent" of exclusively funding the city's spay-and-neuter program.
She asked Fosdeck to consider a free registration process. He said he would.
"I just don't (know) what licensing is going to get us," Fischer said, "except for a few thousand dollars in spay-neuter."
Councilor Dan Darnell also spoke critically of the proposed registration process. He said requiring licenses would penalize those who already follow the city's code.
Councilor Gayla McCulloch said she also was concerned about penalizing pet owners who already comply.
She also asked how the city can enforce a requirement that residents groom their pets.
Councilor Nate Duckett said "push back" would be "tremendous" if registration were mandatory. "We already over-regulate everything we do in our lives," he said.
It was uncertain Tuesday night when the revisions might be adopted or what form they might take.
The 13 pages of revisions will be a tool to help manage overpopulation and an attempt to improve animal health and welfare, said Cory Styron, the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs director.
The city's new $4.6 million animal shelter and its dedicated spay-and-neuter staff, he said, are other city efforts to deal with these problems.
"Our overpopulation is a continual problem," he said, and then he added, "Farmington is the problem."
Most of the animals the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter processes — 55 percent — come from the city, he said, not the Navajo Nation or unincorporated areas of San Juan County.
Animal Advisory Commission representatives also testified. That agency helped draft the revisions. At least 20 city residents concerned with the proposed changes sat in the audience, and some opposed language in the revisions.
The revisions would amend 12 sections of the code, remove one section addressing impounded animal adoptions and add 11 new sections. They increase existing fines and add more animal protections.
Residents would be required to register their animals.
Residents would also be required to buy litter and feral cat colony permits if they breed dogs or cats or feed, water, care for or encourage the "congregation of feral or free-roaming cats," the revisions state.
Residents would have to groom their animals to maintain hygiene and a clean appearance. Styron has said this revision is to ensure the animals are healthy and cared for, not to prevent them from rolling in the mud.
Residents would be prohibited from leaving their animals in vehicles or trailers in conditions where they could be harmed from temperature, lack of food or water or other potentially deadly circumstances.
Before he answered council's questions, the advisory commission's Fosdeck said he helped draft the ordinances with the safety of the city's animals in mind.
"The ordinances that are presented in these packages are nothing new," he said. "These ordinances, for the most part, are standards across the country."