Residents who habitually violate Junction City’s prohibited animal ordinance will see increased penalties beginning May 1.
Junction City Attorney Britain Stites requested enhanced penalties for habitual violators of the ordinance during this week’s city commission meeting. Commissioners discussed lifting the city’s ban on pit bulls last summer. The ban remained in place and, since then, enforcement efforts have shown that some who have animals seized from them replace them with the same breed.
“They will have an animal seized from them, taken to the shelter and, maybe a couple months later — maybe a month, maybe six months — they have the same exact issue with the same kind of animal, but not the same one,” Stites said. “What we see is the shelter being filled up with a number of animals that didn’t have to be there.”
Other animals are prohibited as well, including various fowl, poisonous lizards, wolverines, wolves and hybrids of those types of animals. Stites said one resident brought various livestock into the city because he worked on a farm.
“It happened two or three times, at least,” Stites said. “We’ve also seen it with the pit bulls. We’ll have one person with three or four pit bulls filling up our shelter just because they don’t want a different breed.”
Commissioners approved the request for increased penalties for habitual offenders, which include:
• A resident with a second-offense conviction will be sentenced with a minimum fine of $200 and a minimum sentence of 90 days in jail as an underlying jail sentence.
• A resident with a third-offense conviction will be sentenced with a minimum fine of $500, a minimum sentence of six months in jail and probation shall not start until the defendant serves a minimum of 48 consecutive hours in jail.
• A resident with a third offense, close-to-prior conviction — with two or more prior convictions and a conviction within six months or less of the current conviction — will be sentenced with a minimum fine of $750 and a minimum sentence of six months in jail. The defendant must serve a minimum of five days in jail — of which at least 48 hours must be consecutive — prior to being placed on probation.
Stites also requested an ordinance criminalizing falsely representing a service animal.
“I bring this before you based upon experiences we’ve had in the last 12-18 months in my office prosecuting various animal issues,” Stites said. “A lot of people represent animals they claim are service animals that may not fall underneath that.”
Residents have claimed pit bulls, pigs and other animals as service animals, Stites said.
Federal regulations — under the Americans with Disabilities Act — define service animals and those regulations preempt local law. The ADA protects animal owners from local laws, however, the ADA also strictly defines what is and is not a service animal. Leaning on federal regulations, the city can use the definition of a service animal against an emotional support animal.
Commissioner Phyllis Fitzgerald asked about residents wanting to claim a cat as a service animal.
“So, if I say this cat is my service animal, I can be challenged on it, and have to prove (it)?” Fitzgerald asked.
Stites said cats cannot be claimed as service animals.
“Only two kinds of animals can qualify as a service animal because of their ability to be trained for it,” Stites said. “Any dog and miniature horses.”
Commissioner Tim Brown voiced his approval of the ordinance.
“When I was chief of police, we ran into this problem quite a bit,” Brown said. “I think it’s a good idea to address it such as you’re doing. It is a problem.”
Commissioners approved the ordinance, and those found guilty of falsely representing a service animal will be sentenced with a misdemeanor charge.