Mike McKibbin

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May 30, 2012
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Chickens, pot bellied pigs and wolf hybrids

How many chickens should someone in Rifle be allowed to have in their yard? Should a specific breed of dog be banned?

Those are some of the issues that went into the development of a new animal control regulation for the city of Rifle. An ordinance repealing and re-enacting the city's municipal code regarding animals is scheduled for second and final reading at City Council's June 6 meeting.

Council member Jennifer Sanborn brought up the issue of chickens in the city, something many communities have recently dealt with as more people want to grow and raise their own food, at the May 16 council meeting.

Up to eight chickens per household are already allowed in Rifle, but no roosters. The chickens must be confined to their owner's property and be adequately protected from predators, including from the sky.

"I think it's time Rifle evolved and was responsible on this," Sanborn said. "Communities upvalley allow 10 chickens and we allow 10 domestic animals. If we find there's a problem with sanitation or they become a disturbance, we can act."

The revised ordinance would also cap the numbers of domestic animals. Currently, the city has no restrictions on the numbers of potbellied pigs, rabbits, dogs, cats, exotic animals, or domestic animals in each city household.

Assistant City Manager Matt Sturgeon noted that if a homeowner's association in the city has stricter animal control rules, those apply to residents of that association.

Most of the provisions of Rifle's current animal control regulations were adopted in 1990. Since then, animal control practices have evolved and the Colorado legislature has adopted numerous statutes regulating animals, noted City Attorney Jim Neu.

City staff, led by Police Chief Daryl Meisner, worked with Friends of the Rifle Animal Shelter and other Colorado animal control officials to come up with an updated animal control and regulation ordinance.

Meisner said one key issue in the new rules deals with the question of whether wolf hybrids should be banned in the city, a step not included in the proposal.

Wolf hybrids are controversial because they are not known to respond to rabies vaccinations and are considered by some to be non-domesticated.

"There are at least two wolf hybrids we're aware of in Rifle," Meisner told council. "So they are in your community."

Meisner said he has never personally supported breed bans, something other municipalities, including the city of Denver, have passed in years past.

Rifle's new animal regulations also adopt a definition of "potentially dangerous animals" that puts a higher level of responsibility on the shoulders of the owners of those animals. The definition includes animals that cause nonserious injuries to, or aggressively chase or menace, someone or a domestic animal.

Likewise, if an animal acts in a highly aggressive manner within a fenced yard or enclosure and appears to a "reasonable person" able to jump over or escape from the yard or enclosure, they would fall into this category, Neu wrote to council.

Friends of the Rifle Animal Shelter do not favor that last defining factor, Neu added, but noted the "potentially dangerous animal" category is a level below "vicious animal," and is intended to promote public safety through responsible ownership.

Overall, Neu said the new regulations maintain many of the city's existing policies, but provide city staff, particularly the police department, with a consistent approach to animal control and impoundment, rabies control, quarantines and vaccinations that comply with state law, as well as best practices used by veterinarians and other animal care providers.

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The Post Independent Updated May 30, 2012 05:42PM Published May 30, 2012 05:41PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.