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Here is City Councillor Sally Mayer with one of her Animal Project dogs from the pound, up for adoption, presented at a recent city council meeting.
Mayer is passionate about animals; maybe even more passionate than about politics. Politics, the word, is derived from the Latin meaning of the people.
Last night the council spent more than four hours amending what is known as the “Albuquerque Humane and Ethical Animal Rules and Treatment (HEART) Ordinance.” It is virtually a total rewriting of the animal control ordinance and is a very contentious bill.
It seems to me that when city councilors becomes irrelevant and marginalized by their peers, losing their support and therefore has difficulty moving their agenda, they take on the issue of protecting animals. HEART is Mayer’s attempt at regaining her relevance.
It appears to be a grand effort to legislate nature, on the scale of Noah gathering all the animals for his ark. Noah had the simpler task by comparison. Many in the enforcement community feel that it just won’t work.
Two weeks ago over a hundred people spoke, giving their input during a marathon meeting. No public comments were allowed at this session, though a heckler or two was heard in disagreement. A sea of red clad supporters filled the room and the issue squeezed out many of the items on the rest of the agenda.
However, it was some of the best four-hours of free entertainment available in town and if it weren’t so funny, one might have cried.
During a discussion about neighborhoods that have protective covenants prohibiting fences, Council President Martin Heinrich’s telling an anecdotal story about the frustrations of trying to train his dog to use sophisticated electrified “invisible fencing,” was nothing short of hilarious.
His dog kept crossing the barrier and seemed unimpressed by the electronic shock administered through its collar. As it dashed out of his yard, Heinrich thought the system wasn’t working properly. So, with collar in hand he stepped across the threshold and said the shock he received convinced him that he wanted to stay in the yard.
The ordinance has been in the works for two years and is more than 65 pages long. Council addressed just under 30 amendments during its regular meeting which was adjourned at 10:30 pm.
Councillor Michael Cadigan, in blue shirt, announced he has more than 40 more amendments himself. Councillors Craig Loy, Debbie O'Malley and Mayer look on.
Councillor Don Harris, right, with Heinrich, moved about a dozen amendments. He said many provided for better treatment of animals than are required for humans. Most were shot down.
The bill’s main purpose is population control, prompted by the fact that more than 29,400 animals were put down by the city’s animal services last years.
The ordinance calls for the spaying and neutering of all dogs and cats unless a $150 a year fee per animal is paid for what is called an intact animal. An additional $150 fee will be charged as a breeding permit for each litter. At six months each animal must be spayed or neutered or the $150 intact animal fee is due.
Mayer defends every aspect of this legislation with the fervor associated with an overly protective mother. She even lashed out at the absence of exterminators to support the bill.
With her unsuccessful history of trying to control every aspect of human life - like her pending attempt to impose restrictions on the right to petition government - she has now turned to the dogs.
The council is scheduled to continue this issue at a special meeting 5pm, May 21.