More than chickens covered in Chattanooga's defeated ordinance

More than chickens covered in Chattanooga's defeated ordinance

July 11th, 2013 by Kevin Hardy in Local Regional News

City Councilman Chris Anderson makes his case for an urban chicken ordinance which failed on a 6-3 vote by the Chattanooga City Council on Tuesday. Councilwoman Carol Berz, back, was against the ordinance.

City Councilman Chris Anderson makes his case for...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Chickens got all the attention, but the ordinance that failed this week at the Chattanooga City Council actually included regulations for other more common pets.

The city's animal control ordinance lays out new rules for pet breeders, dealers and performers who use animals in their shows. But the public may first notice rules governing whether restaurants and bars can allow pets in outdoor dining areas.

Council members voted on the package of rules Tuesday evening, when the issue of urban chickens took center stage. Debate over the chicken issue mounted and the ordinance failed by a 6-3 vote.

And now that the chicken proposal is out, organizers are hoping the rest of the animal control issues will be approved. Attorney Mike Mallen, chairman of the city's animal control board, said the new ordinance will bring together all the laws that regulate animals, especially as it relates to businesses. Together, he said they ensure that animals and the public remain safe.

"You look at this as a quality of life and public safety and health issue," he said. "And it will put some obligations on people who are engaging in commercial activities that touch and concern pets."

The city's animal control board, created about six months ago, will issue permits and hear complaints about breeders, pet dealers and performers that use animals, such as the circus or theater performances.

The same goes for restaurants that allow customers to bring dogs onto their decks or patios.

Mallen said that rule seems like a natural progression of the city's growing active lifestyle. "There are more people on foot, more pedestrian traffic, more people walking dogs," he said. "I think it's smart and it's user-friendly. And it's responsive to a need that's out there."

Restaurants must pay $50 a year for the permit and must meet basic health standards, like ensuring pets don't walk through restaurants and requiring that employees wash their hands after petting dogs.

So far, four businesses have received the permits.

"We have always allowed customers to come and sit on our patio with their pets. And all of a sudden we have to have a law like that?" said Lynda Curtis, who owns the Ice Cream Show, near the foot of the Walnut Street Bridge.

The ice cream shop's patio has always been pet-friendly, Curtis said. And the new regulations seem unnecessary, because they're mostly common sense.

But Chattanooga had to pass a permitting law in order to be in compliance with state law, said Karen Walsh, executive director of the McKamey Animal Center. Without creating its own permitting policy, dogs would be illegal at Chattanooga restaurant patios and decks.

"We want it to be allowed," Walsh said. "We're just trying to work with the state law."

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfree or 423-757-6249.