Exotic animal ordinance pastured

By Jack King

City Planning and Zoning Commissioners indefinitely tabled a proposed ordinance governing the keeping of exotic animals Wednesday after hearing from several Clovis residents who opposed the ordinance.
However, they said the ordinance is not dead and can be resurrected later.
The commissioners said they will recommend camels and llamas be added to the city’s list of livestock allowed to be kept on city lots zoned for livestock keeping.
Commissioner Bill Bollinger said the livestock zoning designation was created when the city incorporated lots that had formerly been in the county and the city is not expanding the number of lots so zoned. Defining camels and llamas as livestock would mean the city could limit where they are allowed to be kept, he said.
Some residents complained to the commission that the proposed ordinance was vague. Al Lewis, owner of Al’s Pets, said the ordinance didn’t forbid selling snakes in the city, but didn’t explain whether a seller would also be required to get a permit and pass city inspections, as the ordinance would require a pet owner to do.
Some objected to the ordinance’s requirement that exotic pet owners pay a $25 permit fee.
“Why should we have to make a payment? We’ve already paid for the animal and we’re feeding it,” said Robert Salinas, who said he owns lizards.
Still others objected to the whole idea of the ordinance.
“In 25 years not a single python has gotten out (of its home), yet we’re going to have to pay $25 and you can come to my house to inspect where I keep my snake,” said Kenny Payne.
Luisa Maestas, head of the city’s Animal Control Division, said the division doesn’t have the training, equipment or facilities to assess conditions under which the exotic animals are being kept or to handle exotic animals that escape their keepers.
City Commissioner Robert Sandoval, who attended the meeting, questioned how the proposed ordinance would be enforced.
But, Michele Rokke, animal control and law enforcement program director for Animal Protection of New Mexico Inc., congratulated the commission on trying to develop an ordinance aimed at protecting public safety and the animals’ welfare.
“In general, I think an ordinance that includes care caveats is a good idea, but I think banning wild or exotic animals as pets is the way to go,” she said.
Commissioners voted unanimously to table the ordinance, but Commissioner, and City Commissioner, Juan Garza prefaced his vote by saying, “So long as no one is hurt in the meantime.”