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Spay, neuter ordinance for dogs clears first obstacle

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Dawnn Robinson

An ordinance that would strengthen Rio Rancho’s animal regulations, including requiring dog owners to spay and neuter their pets, was approved in its first reading by city councilors this week.

The pet ordinance was approved 4-2 during Wednesday’s regular governing body meeting, with councilors Dawnn Robinson and Jennifer Flor casting dissenting votes.

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Jennifer Flor

If a second reading of the ordinance is later approved by the governing body, dog owners would be required to spay and neuter their pets. The proposed requirements would mirror a current city requisite that all cat owners must spay and neuter their pets. If approved, a pet owner can request an exemption due to a medical, competitive or function-bred reason.

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The proposed ordinance would also ban the sale of any dogs or cats by any local pet store, in an attempt to hinder the sale of pets from animal mills. Currently, no pet store in Rio Rancho sells dogs or cats.

Robinson said she opposed the ordinance on principle, saying the governing body recently voted against the pet sale ban and dog neuter/spay requirement. City councilors voted on a similar pet ordinance in 2011, following a multi-year committee discussion and recommendation on the issue.

“Not that I disagree with parts of it, but I won’t support it because it’s not OK that we flip the law on its head every year-and-a-half,” Robinson said. “If it comes back again in the next year-and-a-half, I won’t support it either.”

Robinson recommended the issue be placed in a charter question, where “we could put it to the people and provide some stability, have a vote and keep it so it’s not flip-flopping all the time.”

Flor said she was concerned that the spay and neuter requirement might cause unneeded financial stress to some dog owners.

“My concern is that some people who may be responsible dog owners otherwise, they’ll go to register their animals and then find out that they have to pay a fee if their animal’s intact,” Flor said. “I think instead of more regulation and fees, I would rather see coordination between the city and some kind of low-cost neutering program.”

In other news, the governing body approved:

⋄  The first reading of an ordinance that would change the rates of residential, development, commercial and office impact fee rates. If a second reading is approved, the new impact fee rates would begin in July and continue through July 1, 2021. The governing body would then reassess the city’s impact fee rates in 2022; and

⋄  A site plan to develop a Fish Factory Swim School at 1801 Wellspring Avenue. The more than 10,000-square foot building will include a swimming pool and parking lot that could hold more than 50 cars.

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