Pet owners within Round Rock city limits must follow a new set of standards following a unanimous Dec. 20 vote by City Council to adopt a series of amendments to the city’s animal ordinance.
The changes impact not only cat and dog owners but the management of feral cats, backyard beekeeping and the sale of animals within the city as well.
“The ordinance does a lot of good things for both pets and pet owners,” city Animal Control Supervisor Joel Coston said.
The amendments to the ordinance include a requirement for all pets in the city over the age of four months to be microchipped; further definition of what constitutes shelter for animals; and a requirement that any animal sold in Round Rock must come from Williamson County or Travis County.
“The biggest impact I see is the microchipping requirement,” said Misty Valenta, community programs coordinator with the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. “Any time an animal comes in without any kind of identification it is really difficult to get that animal reunited with their family. A microchip stays with the animal so there is no chance of losing identification when you take their collar off to give them a bath and that’s when they escape.”
Valenta said she believes the microchipping requirement could help shorten the length of stay at the shelter for lost Round Rock pets who end up at the shelter. She also expects the shelter’s intake numbers of animals from Round Rock to decrease as animal control officers are able to bypass the shelter and return lost animals with the help of microchips.
“[Microchipping] is something that we have really wanted our community to embrace more, and I’m really hopeful that in the next couple of years we will be able to look at the numbers and see what kind of impact that makes,” Valenta said. “I am expecting that we will see a lot more reunited families.”
One amendment that ultimately did not make it into the ordinance was a proposition to ban the act of leaving animals in vehicles for any amount of time. After discussion with council, Coston said the ordinance remained the same, stating that it is unlawful to leave animals unattended in vehicles in a manner that endangers the animal’s health or safety. Coston said this gives officers the authority to take action to save animals in distress.
“I still recommend that you don’t leave your animals in a vehicle,” Coston said. “The way the ordinance is written, [animal control and police officers]have the authority to break your window and take an animal out of the vehicle if it is in danger.”
Council members Tammy Young and Will Peckham worked with Coston and community stakeholders to research and develop the amendments over the course of several months.
“I feel the animals came out on top with these changes,” Valenta said. “Our community is a community of animal lovers, and I see that every day at the shelter. I believe that great pet owners are not born, they are educated; so by defining these elements in the ordinance and having more clarity, we are all going to benefit and have a foundation of expectation for great animal care.”