City council debates adding leash law, escalating fines for animal at large to city ordinance

Due to the number of animal at large cases, the City of Lexington is debating adding a leash law to the books, as well as escalating fines.

LEXINGTON — The Lexington City Council is debating to add a leash law for animals and escalating fines for people charged with animals running at large.

According to City Attorney Brian Copley, Lexington does not have a leash law at the moment. The new ordinance would require any animals to be on a leash, cord or chain while they are not on the owners property.

Owners will be charged with animal running at large if their pets are not secured in such a way.

Mayor John Fagot also mentioned defining what actual control is of an animal. He said it is possible, “for an animal to be on a leash, but have no control over it.” He used the example of a young girl trying to control an 80 pound dog.

City Manager Joe Pepplitsch said if the council was looking to add a leash law, then maybe there should be a broader look at the issue around animals running at large.

He pointed out the city already has ordinances for dangerous dogs and said running at large isn’t generally an issue unless the animal itself is causing problems.

Mayor Fagot said people say their animals are well trained and they don’t need a leash, and council member Jeremy Roberts added anyone can lose control of an animal.

Fagot said the leash law is a real requirement and they could discuss what actual control means on later readings of the ordinance.

Copley said the city would allow its law enforcement officers to exercise discretion when enforcing the ordinance.

The council adopted the ordinance on first reading; the ordinance will be heard two more times before the council before it is officially put into place.

Another ordinance the council debated was escalating fines for people who have been convicted of dog at large.

Copley said the city prosecutor, Beverly Louthan, has noted many repeat animal at large offenders and advocated for increasing the fines associated with this charge.

There were 30 second time offenders, 10 third time offenders and one individual who had five offenses, Copley said.

At the moment animal at large is treated as a $25 fine, with the new ordinance, the first offense would remain $25, but the second would increase to $100, and third and subsequent offenses would rise to $150.

Copley said these increasing fines are in line with how other cities and villages handle repeat offenders.

Mayor Fagot asked the council to considering have an animal implanted with a microchip, which could easily identify the owner, when they are impounded. Copley said immunization is already required for impounded animals, so a chipping requirement is not outside of possibility.

Pepplitsch again mentioned the possibility of revamping the whole ordinance around animals and the importance of enforcing any new changes. He asked the council how far they want to go in regulation and what they are specifically trying to address with these ordinances.

Mayor Fagot responded they want people to be responsible pet owners and Pepplitsch said these penalties may not be substantial on their own.

Mayor Fagot said adding a leash law and the escalating fines are a step and things will not change if they do not get people’s attention.

Copley said in the end it is up to the city’s police officers when it comes to enforcement, Pepplitsch said discretion should be left to law enforcement.

The ordinance was passed on first reading and will be heard again at subsequent council meetings.

Engineering plans have been completed for water system improvements around the city and bids for the project are ready to be solicited.

Pepplitsch said the three project locations are along Cattleman’s Dr., between Plum Creek Parkway and south Adams St.; 13th St., between north Adams and Park St. and a section of north Airport Road.

The Cattleman’s project would connect the south and north water systems, allowing for greater flexibility in the future, a bottleneck would be removed on 13th St. and increase the pipe size to that of the surrounding area and Airport Road’s project would create a connection in the north with a 10 inch main.

The council approved to bids be solicited, these will be due around Feb. 20 and will be discussed at a later council meeting.

The city was also considering an application to the Civic and Community Center Financing Fund for a planning grant.

What the city is planning for is an indoor facility which could be used for hard surface sporting activities. The city would apply for $15,000 from the CCCFF grant and the city would contribute $15,000 to an overall cost of $30,000. A feasibility study will be conducted.

The last item concerned an appointment to the Lexington Public Library board.

Mayor Fagot said there was a vacancy on the Library Board after another member left due to other responsibilities. Deb Wells was recommended by the library staff to fill the spot. The board approved.

During the round table discussion it was decided to reschedule a council work session, which had been set for Saturday, due to several council members being unable to attend.

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