Archive for Wednesday, July 18, 2007

City council bans dogs at Maple Leaf Festival

July 18, 2007

Don't bring your dogs to the Maple Leaf Festival. If you do, the penalty could be a bite.

That's the message delivered by the Baldwin City Council when it approved on first reading an ordinance banning animals from public events. The action at Monday's meeting stemmed from a young girl being bit in the face by a dog at last year's festival.

"The safety committee has been pondering this for some time," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "It started as a no dogs at Maple Leaf, but has changed into an all animals at all events."

City Council Member Tony Brown, who heads the safety committee, said he's afraid the measure is necessary, although it bothers him regarding personal rights.

"I have mixed feelings on this," said Brown, adding that enforcement won't be easy. "Regulation of this is going to be difficult. To bring your dog to Maple Leaf, it's scary for them."

There are still a few items to be worked out with the ordinance, including the difference between public and private places.

"I think this is a great idea," said Council Member Doyle Jardon. "I love dogs and cats, but in their place. With 3,000 people downtown, it isn't (the place)."

Nancy Brown, a member of the safety committee that did most of the work on the ordinance, noted the public and private concerns, as well as when it's in effect.

"Doyle's concern is one we looked at," said N. Brown. "It's just during the event. It's not like you can't let your dog out."

That's when Council Member Ted Brecheisen Jr. asked about penalties. As the ordinance stands now, the offense would be a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to a month in jail or a $500 fine. But, Dingman said that would be up to the judge's discretion.

"I would hope by passing this ordinance we are saying 'don't bring your dog,'" said T. Brown.

And, the council knows it won't mean an end to dogs at the festival. N. Brown noted that the Maple Leaf committee has had on its flyers and other information for years that pets were not allowed. Still, there have always been plenty and probably always will. Service animals will still be allowed, too.

"People who have brought their dogs to Maple Leaf for years are going to bring their dog to the Maple Leaf," said Jardon.

N. Brown explained that the animals will not be allowed on any transportation provided by the committee and people at barricades will tell people they can't bring animals into the festival. But, she knows it will happen and also knows that police officers have their hands full with other security items with the festival.

The ordinance also allows for animals to be in certain events, such as the parade, but once the parade is over, animals are to be taken away. Also, the annual petting zoo falls outside the ordinance's reach.

The council will have second reading of the ordinance for adoption at its Aug. 6 meeting.

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