Pet owners who refuse to pick up their furry friend after it is impounded within Pasco city limits no longer will face a criminal charge unless they’re a repeat offender.
Pasco City Council members indicated Monday night they agree with proposed changes to a municipal ordinance making it a civil infraction “to knowingly refuse to redeem” an animal.
They will vote on the amendment at the Jan. 18 meeting.
Up to now, people who did not rescue their animals were charged with a misdemeanor. Then it was a lengthy process to be resolved before a judge, according to a report prepared by Rick Terway, Pasco’s administrative and community services director.
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“The cost in staff and court time is more of a burden than the offense dictates, for the Animal Control Authority, the court and the offender,” the report said.
Less than 10 cases were prosecuted in 2015, staff said.
Pasco wants to be equal to the other cities under the authority — Kennewick and Richland — so staff recommended the reduction for the first two offenses. A third violation within a two-year period will lead to a misdemeanor.
The violation applies not only to an owner who refuses to collect their own pet that might have been found running loose, but to a person who gets an animal from the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter and then returns it to the original owner without first paying all impound fees.
With a civil infraction, the city can collect a maximum fine of $250.
According to the shelter’s website, it will hold a found animal “for three business days to give the owners a chance to claim their pet.”
The 1312 S. 18th Ave. facility will only accept cash for impound fees, which include boarding costs.
The animal is put up for adoption if not claimed in the three-day window.
It will remain a crime for a person to interfere with an animal control officer and to break open or let animals out of the shelter without authorization.
Also Monday, officials discussed once again extending the deadline to renew the Charter Communications franchise agreement, this time to July 31.
Pasco’s agreement with Charter to serve as the city’s cable TV provider is set to expire Feb. 1.
The city has been preparing for and conducting negotiations with the cable-telecommunications giant for nearly 4 1/2 years.
The renewal negotiations first were put on hold in 2014 when Comcast Corp. was going to take over Charter’s Northwest operations. Then, since that deal was abandoned last April, Charter has been in ongoing talks with Time Warner Cable.
A report by city staff said they have been disappointed at the pace of negotiations and recognize council members have “grown equally weary of the need to continue to renew the existing franchise.”
The report said the city is optimistic it will get done within this proposed time period, and noted that pushing on is the only viable alternative.
Charter already has agreed to the extension, and council members appeared to support the delay. They will vote at the Jan. 18 meeting.