City passes ordinance to allow three dogs or cats

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Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 1:29 am, Wed Jun 18, 2014.

A grassroots campaign led by a new Ralston resident helped amend a decades-old ordinance governing pet ownership in the city last Tuesday.

Kristyna Brozova, who moved to Ralston in June with boyfriend Chris Rush and two beagles, was intent on fostering a third canine but was shocked when she learned the city’s ordinance only provided for the harboring of up to two dogs and a cat or two cats and a dog, but not three of either species together. She appeared at city council meetings over the summer and began crusading to change the law, tapping fellow residents and other dog advocates to make a case to the city.

Last Tuesday, those efforts were rewarded as Brozova and eight other Ralston residents and an official with the Nebraska Humane Society appeared to address the council on the third and final reading of the amended ordinance, which would allow residents to keep up to three cats or dogs in any combination. The city council voted 5-1 to adopt the amended ordinance. The new measure will take effect on Jan. 23.

Visibly moved after the vote, Brozova said she was gratified by the number of people who stepped up to help and for the council’s decision.

“It’s been a really overwhelming process,” she said. “We reached out to a lot of people in town, about 20 rescue clinics and kennels, the Humane Society and we got a great response. I’m very happy with this. We had to get people to come and to post about this and they did.”

The first two readings of the ordinance in December featured Brozova and a few other supporters. It passed both readings with votes of 4-2, with councilmen Craig Alberhasky and Rich Onken voting against the proposed change.

Brozova said she was not optimistic about passage of the ordinance after the first two readings. But at the third, with a wall of people behind her as she addressed the council once again, she said she felt fortunes were turning.

“I know there’s been history with this law and I didn’t think there was much hope,” she said. “The biggest challenge had been getting people there to talk about it, but through the shelters and vets and the use of social media, we got people to come and I’m glad they all did.”

Both councilmen voting nay said they had issues with the potential barking nuisance. By the third reading, Onken switched his vote and said his concerns were allayed by discussions with the local Humane Society and residents who differentiated between good dog owners and bad ones.

Ralston resident Rita Van Fleet, testifying during the public hearing on the ordinance, said a dog barking has less to do with the dog than with the owner.

“It’s not so much the animals as it is the owners,” Van Fleet said. “We have other laws to deal with that.”

Alberhasky stuck with his no vote, saying he was uncomfortable with the noise issue and also worried about what he sees as an increasing feral cat population in Ralston.

Mark Langan, vice president of field operations for the Nebraska Humane Society, said his organization has many steps in place to ensure noise does not become an issue and said the Humane Society has a good working relationship with Ralston Police, should it come to that.

He also said Ralston’s passage of the new law makes the city’s policy commensurate with similar ordinances in the metropolitan area. The cities of Omaha, Bellevue and La Vista allow three animals in any combination, and Papillion allows four.

“This would put Ralston in line with nearby cities,” Langan said. “As far as barking dog complaints, we work well with the Ralston Police Department and we find that, in instances where we have to remove a dog from a home, it’s no more work for the Nebraska Humane Society because of that relationship.”

Tom Howard, a Ralston resident who also has been looking for opportunities to foster a third rescue dog, said getting Ralston into line with the communities in proximity and giving people with a heart for animals a chance to open their homes is a major move for the city.

“It’s an old ordinance and it doesn’t really fit with what people are doing these days,” Howard said. “Doing it the new way keeps up with everyone else and gives people that possibility to have a rescue. That’s always a positive in the rescue community.”

Ralston Mayor Don Groesser saluted Brozova for her fortitude in starting the movement to amend the ordinance and following through to a successful conclusion.

“This would not have happened had you not done all the work on this,” he said.

Looking ahead, Brozova said she and Rush are now planning to make space for a third dog in their home.

“Dog love is the most unconditional love you can know,” she said. “I was not really expecting this. I’m very touched by the people who came. It shows that people are still open-minded and willing to listen.”

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