Council encourages citizens to license their dogs

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

By Samantha Jones

If you live in city limits, the Eureka Springs City Council wants you to get a license for your dog.

On Monday night, council member Harry Meyer said the city has a "dismally small number of people who purchase licenses" for their dogs. Meyer said he spoke with animal control officer Jim Evans, who said a lot of people don't get licenses because "they don't want to spend the money on the shots for their animals."

"If they live in town, I think they should be able to afford shots for their animals," Meyer said.

Meyer suggested that Mayor Butch Berry could place signage throughout town encouraging people to sign up for a dog license and council member Susan Harman said dog licenses would protect public health.

"Having as many animals as we do in town raccoons, foxes, coyotes and all that if your dog was in the back yard, you would never know [if they were bitten], and if they weren't vaccinated for rabies, it is a huge, huge issue," Harman said. "It's not necessarily about the money. It's about the safety of the citizens within city limits. That is probably 100 percent of the reason why cities across the U.S. require that their citizens' animals have rabies shots."

Council member Melissa Greene said she'd talk to the animal operations director at Good Shepherd Humane Society about the issue, saying they can "make sure to tell the new adopter to get a license if they live in Eureka Springs."

"It is important, and the humane society does offer low-cost shots," Greene said. "I think most people can afford that, and I think we should be more proactive at making people license their dogs. I think the only people who have licenses on their dogs are all sitting at this council table."

Meyer said he is most concerned about public health.

"The bug is there and it's going to get around to people's pets for sure," Meyer said.

Council member Terry McClung agreed.

"We have a charge for a dog license. We have a penalty if they don't have a dog license," McClung said. "I think it's important that we push this. If you want to have a pet, then you've got to be responsible for it. It's that simple. It's not rocket science."

Berry said he was listening to what the council had to say.

"We've come up with a few solutions here. I can talk to [Evans] about the enforcement issue," Berry said. "We'll go ahead and see if we can get some action taken on that."

He added, "It's a lot cheaper if you go ahead and get your dog license than to have to pay a fine."

In other business, Greene updated the council on Good Shepherd Humane Society's new program to manage the feral cat population. Greene said Good Shepherd is working with Spay Arkansas and will neuter and spay feral cats at no cost. Then the cats will be released where they were found, Greene said.

Harman asked when the program will start and Greene said it should be "right after the first of the year."

"As far as citizens of the city limits, do they need to call if they have an issue?" Harman asked.

"Yes and if they have a feral cat and they trap it they can bring it and they will spay or neuter it," Greene said.

Also at the meeting, transit director Ken "Smitty" Smith updated the council on transit's budget. Smith said the Federal Transit Administration has agreed to purchase two medium buses for the fixed route system for $61,000 each, two 10-passenger vans for the Share-A-Ride program for $54,000 each and a complete radio system with a new repeater for $70,000. Existing vehicles will be replaced by the new ones, Smith said, and the current radio system will be replaced as well.

"The radios we currently have are ancient when it comes to electronics and they have caused us problems in communicating effectively," Smith said. "We expect the system to be installed this winter."

Creating the 2021 budget, Smith said, was a little different this year because of COVID-19.

"We do not know what 2021 will bring as far as the COVID-19, so we decided to budget 2021 as if everything was normal and we used funds spent in 2019 as a guide for most line items to determine the budget for 2021," Smith said. "In 2021, we are requesting funding from the FTA for our administration and operation expenses."

Smith said the budgeted expenses for those areas total $1,205,000. Of that, Smith said, $326,705 are administration expenses and $673,500 are operational expenses. The FTA will fund 80 percent of administration expenses, Smith said, and 50 percent of the operation expenses after subtracting fare revenue. Transit receives $167,600 in state funding for its portion of the match, Smith said.

"This leaves a match obligation of $122,141. We cover this with advertising sales, parking revenues and our tram tours," Smith said. "Transit in the last four years has been able to cover our match obligations without receiving help from the city. We expect to be able to cover that match again in 2021."

The council's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, at the Auditorium.

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