It was standing-room only in the county commission chambers Tuesday night as the public gathered to voice opinions on the proposed animal control ordinance.
“We have met with the public, and we realize that there are a lot of areas in that ordinance that need to be addressed,” said Linda Cisneros, director of animal control. “We cannot pursue dogs on private property. We need to address the issue of a vicious dog.”
Cisneros then requested that the commissioners table the ordinance until more public meetings could be held. Her request met with strong disapproval from the crowd. After the public had it’s input, the ordinance was tabled by the commissioners. No future public hearing date has been set.
“I haven’t seen this many people since I-don’t-know-when,” said Commissioner Frank Pando. “I hope they’re here when we pass the budget. I also would like to see this tabled.”
Commissioner Alicia Aguilar spoke up for the right of residents to voice their opinions and said she was not ready to table it.
“These people are here tonight, and their input needs to be considered,” said Aguilar. “I want to hear what the public has to say.”
More than 15 people addressed their concerns over the proposed ordinance to the commissioners — many taking longer than the two minutes allowed.
Terence H. Toomey of Los Lunas presented copies of a nine-page critique of the ordinance to each of the commissioners and was passing out flyers before the meeting began.
“I was told that Linda Cisneros did not write the ordinance, that the advisory committee did,” Toomey said. “There have been 114 changes. How many more changes will be made before this is approved?”
When Edward Mansfield spoke in favor of the ordinance, pointing out that it was “not much different from an ordinance in Florida,” his comment drew fervent boos from the crowd.
Lee Laney, vice chairman of the Valencia County Animal Control Advisory Committee, pointed out that those residents in attendance had the opportunity to be on the committee.
“I know a lot of people have some problems with what we are trying to do,” Laney said. “Instead of casting blame, any of these people could have been on this committee instead of coming here at the last minute.”
The crowd became so vocal and disruptive at one point during the meeting, Chairman Al Padilla had to bang the gavel and ask the crowd to “please keep it calm.”
Kennel owners objected to the proposed ordinance because it would require them to be inspected. They also raised concerns that they would have to pay $125 for their intact dogs.
Under the proposed ordinance, county residents would have to pay $125 for any non-sterilized animal they own. However, exceptions would be made for any dogs or cats too old to spay or neuter, according to committee member Judy Babcock.
After Padilla’s warning, residents were allowed to continue to speak.