New Orleans — Pet owners in the city of New Orleans might soon have a new set of laws to follow.
The Louisiana SPCA, in conjunction with the City Council, has spent about a year working to update legislation that deals with pet ownership.
Key changes in the 40-page ordinance that would amend the city code include a reduction in the frequency at which pets must be vaccinated, increased standards of care to help keep pets safe during extreme weather conditions, updated tethering requirements, feral cat control policies and a new designation for “potentially dangerous” dogs.
City laws governing pet ownership were written in the mid-1950s. Since then, there has been only one comprehensive look at them about 15 years ago, LA/SPCA Executive Director Ana Zorrilla told the council’s Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday.
District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry said the council and LA/SPCA began to work on the changes after some constituents approached her about updating the vaccination laws.
“Obviously, this needed updating,” Guidry said of the existing laws.
Under the proposed ordinance, pet owners would only need to vaccinate their animals every three years. They would still need to get a vaccination license annually, though.
“I like to think of it as a brake tag,” Zorrilla said of vaccinations. “You don’t need a full overhaul unless you find a problem.”
Cats and dogs also would need to be moved indoors during extreme heat, tornados, tropical storms or hurricanes if the proposal becomes law. Currently, Zorrilla said, the city code only requires pets to be indoors during freezes. NOAA warnings would set the threshold for requiring pets to be moved inside.
In regard to tethering of pets, the new language in the law would require putting the dog on a lead attached to an overhead running line, pulley or trolley system that allows it to move at least 30 feet. Otherwise the dog must be taken off the tether at least twice a day for exercise for at least 60 minutes.
Zorrilla said that some municipalities outlaw tethering and that while she realizes some people need to tether their dogs because of living conditions, a prohibition on the practice might be something to consider in the future.
“We may want to eventually move in that direction,” she said. “But I’m not sure our community is ready for that in one fell swoop.”
Feral cat populations also would be affected by the proposed ordinance. Cats that have been ear tipped — or have a small part of an ear snipped off to identify them as part of a feral colony — and are spayed or neutered and properly vaccinated would be allowed outside so long as a caregiver removes fecal matter and the cats do not become nuisances to neighbors.
A designation of a “potentially dangerous” dog would be added to the city code’s language.
Those dogs would be identified by unprovoked bites to humans or another animal that result in a minor injury, if they chase a person in public property and cause injury, or if the dog was placed in a new home by the LA/SPCA or another organization after it was suspected of being trained or bred for fighting. The current ordinance says that dogs bred for fighting are considered vicious and must be euthanized.
Two public meetings will be held to discuss the proposed changes. The first meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council chambers at City Hall, 1300 Perdido St. The second meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Nov. 1 at the LA/SPCA, 1700 Mardi Gras Blvd., Algiers.
The SPCA and Guidry hope to update the proposed ordinance and present a final version to the full council within several weeks of the public meetings.