Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Nail Biter? No, …Just Another Catfight

What's wrong with this picture?

These are supporters of the rewritten animal control ordinance at the Albuquerque City Council meeting the other night as taking of the vote approached. The apprehension over the outcome showed on this nail biting supporter’s face. But it wasn’t that close. The bill passed 6-3.

Councillor Debbie O'Malley described the bill as the “most word-smithed” piece of legislation she had seen and expressed the hope that some upcoming legislation she has pending will not be subjected to such scrutiny.

Councillor Sally Mayer’s cute-sayings and symbolic laden bill is entitled the Humane and Ethical Animal Rules and Treatment or HEART ordinance. According to Mayer it took two or three years to write.

Since it was introduced June 20, 2005, consideration of the 65-page bill was postponed more than 15 times. It was subjected to more than six and a half hours of public comments and more than five hours of council discussion considering 32 amendments.

One of the overly cute phrases was to explain about “intact animals,” those not spayed or neutered, which were picked up roaming the streets. The idea about "one get out of ACT intact free pass," was explained to mean a pet could get out of animal control's “doggy jail” once, before being required to be “fixed” and before an owner could take them home.

Many of the amendments were technical. They simply corrected spelling and grammatical errors that slipped by the sponsor.

Voting with Mayer were O'Malley, Martin Heinrich, Ken Sanchez, Isaac Benton and Craig Loy

Councillors Don Harris, Brad Winter and Michael Cadigan voted against the resolution.

Harris and Cadigan, the council’s two lawyer-members, had several problems, from their legal perspectives, with the legislation. Winter saw the act as unenforceable.

Mayer accused Harris of trying to destroy her bill anyway he could and was offended by his questions and amendments, attacking him personally.

Harris thought, among other things, that the $150 “fees” for “intact” animals and for breeder permits were an excise tax as opposed to fees. Cadigan agreed.

The bill remains controversial. Critics accused the ordinance of being the product of special interest groups that favored animal rights.

Harris pointed out that in the bill, animals were protected from things that humans were not. One such item in the resolution was the restriction on physical control devices, such as training sticks and electronic prods. Their use constitutes animal cruelty. I find it interesting that the council has no problems with police officers using impact weapons and electronic stun devices on people. HEART seems to elevate animal rights above their human owners.

Last week Cadigan, left, had signaled he had upwards of 40 additional amendments but reduced it to one as he indicated that he and Mayer came to agree on many of his concerns.

Winter, right, reminded Mayer that just because councillors did not agree with all of her legislation or they proposed amendments it was not because they were attacking her, but were trying to serve the people of the city.

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