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Council moves ‘dangerous animal’ appeal fee forward; Will vote on amendment at next meeting

The Austin City Council voted unanimously to move forward an amendment to the ordinance dealing with dangerous animal designation appeals to the next council meeting during its work session Monday evening.

The amendment would allow for a non-refundable $75 fee to be applied to appeals from owners of pets that have been deemed “dangerous” by law enforcement.

Under the city’s current ordinance, owners of pets designated as “dangerous” have 14 days to appeal the order, at which point a hearing before the city council is scheduled for no more than 21 days after the appeal is made. Failure to appeal results in the seizure and euthanization of the animal in question.

Because of the recent increase in dangerous animal appeal hearings, City Attorney Craig Byram recommended the $75 fee as a means to cover the time it takes staff to schedule and hold the hearings.

The fee would also be applied to the appeal of a “potentially dangerous animal” designation.

The proposed amendment would also require owners of animals designated as “dangerous” making an appeal to pay a deposit equal to the cost of impounding said animal. The cost would be calculated based on 21 days of potential impounding pending the hearing. The city currently charges an impounding fee of $20, plus $10 for each additional day. The cost for 21 days of impoundment is $230.

In a memorandum, Byram said city ordinance allows for the city “to charge owners for boarding their animals while their animals are in the City pound.” He further stated, “Historically, we have not charged a fee for an appeal of this nature and have not attempted to collect impound fees from owners in Dangerous animal cases. This has been out of respect for the emotional toll a Dangerous animal designation has on an owner, but also in recognition that attempting to collect from owners after the fact would be inefficient and in many cases unsuccessful.”

Byram cited a recent case that went all the way to the Court of Appeals, who upheld the “dangerous animal” designation, as a reason for recommending the deposit.

Should the owner win the appeal, the deposit will be rebated to the owner.

No appeal would move forward without the payment of appeal fees for “dangerous” and “potentially dangerous” cases or without the impoundment deposit for “dangerous” cases.

The council will vote on approving the ordinance amendment during its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18.