Sunday, May 03, 2009

Texas: County's wild animal rules remain in debate

Published April 28, 2009

Possible changes to Kerr County's Wild Animal Ordinance remain just that - possible, following Monday's commissioners' court meeting.

For months, commissioners have weighed whether to amend the ordinance, adopted in 2001, to ban "dangerous wild animals." The issue arose after a 330-pound Siberian tiger escaped from its enclosure Jan. 18 on private property in Ingram.

The big cat , owned by Anke Leitner, was found at about

3 a.m. in the 100 block of Beaver Road, and was tranquilized by Kerr County Animal Control and returned to its owner

While no injuries resulted from the incident, the tiger's brief romp around a neighborhood caused a stir in the community.

During their Jan. 26 meeting, commissioners heard from both sides of the issue, including the tiger's owner and a woman whose yard was the scene of the animal's capture.

In January, Leitner described the incident as a "freak accident" and said work was being done on the tiger's enclosure to prohibit its escape in the future.

Mildred Crenshaw, after voicing concerns about the animal's cage, said she thinks it's ridiculous "to have an animal like that in a neighborhood that's populated."

At that time, commissioners planned for a public hearing on the matter, but no one appeared to speak on the topic.

On Monday, Precinct 4 Commissioner Bruce Oehler, who represents the area where the tiger is kept, said he had failed to notify Crenshaw about the public hearing and wanted to give her a chance to speak.

"I do not think these animals are pets," she said. "We were very fortunate it happened when it did (3 a.m.)" and questioned what would have taken place had the tiger come into contact with children in the area.

Oehler contends it would make sense to prohibit such animals in more populated areas while allowing them in less congested parts of the county. But he said the law stipulates such an ordinance must apply countywide.

Also, he isn't sold on the idea of adding a new law to the books. Instead, he contends there needs to be better enforcement of those that already exist.

"We need to take responsibility for that," Oehler said.

It was noted during the January meeting that the county plans to inspect such properties "every other month" as opposed to once a year, as required by state law.

Oehler said he could argue both sides of the issue, and noted if changes are forthcoming, he would like to see animals currently housed in the county be "grandfathered" into the new policy, which would allow them to remain here.

In the end, commissioners decided to have a proposal created and then submit the recommended changes for public comment at a later date.


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