Hobbs residents will not be able to bring their pets to certain city facilities and city-sponsored events.
During Monday’s City Commission meeting, Mayor Sam Cobb and commissioners unanimously approved two new ordinances that will prohibit animals within properly posted City of Hobbs facilities and prohibit animals within areas of certain city sponsored special events.
Signage will be placed at least every 200 feet surrounding the entrance of facilities that will not allow pets and will be in English and Spanish. City facilities that may prohibit animals include the baseball and softball complex, city pools, splash pads and city buildings. Only service dogs and public safety or law enforcement animals will be exempt from the proposed animal ban. Pets will be allowed during a special event where animals are the focus of the event.
In early June, City Manager J.J. Murphy received unanimous approval from the commission to publish the two ordinances before the final vote was made on Monday. Murphy said the purpose of the ordinances was to help keep the public and animals safe during a city event or at a city facility that is populated with many residents.
“I think it’s important to point out when we talk about prohibiting pets on city property we’re not talking about prohibiting animals throughout the city in every location,” Murphy said. “We’re not going to post the trail, all of our parks or all of our public buildings. We’re not banning dogs from the city. We want people to go out and recreate. But we want it to be a safe experience when people are out there. This isn’t anti-dog, this is about safety for our residents.”
Mike Stone, city attorney, said with the new ordinances passed there are citations set in place for those who do not abide by the new city laws.
“It’s a misdemeanor,” Stone said. “Basically, with this particular one it’s a fine of up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail.”
Commissioner Garry Buie approved the new ordinances but said it should have not come to the point where an ordinance had to be placed to keep residents and pets safe in city facilities or at city sponsored events.
“It’s not the dogs fault, it’s the owners responsibility and it’s unfortunate that we have to come to this point in time because some of the owners aren’t taking care of their own animals,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate.”
Cobb said city officials and staff had to write up an ordinance to give the proper city authorities to regulate the new rules.
“Sometimes people wonder why we do this, but if we don’t create the ordinance then city staff does not have the ability to go and regulate it,” Cobb said. “A lot of this has come from incidents that have occurred where children have been in danger or grandmothers have been knocked down or whatever the case may be.”
City staff approached local animal rights groups, such as the Lea County Humane Society, Pat Huntley, operator of the Crazy Dog Lady Pet Rescue, and Betty Nixon, operator of Animal & Wildlife Rescue, to get support on the new ordinances.
“I want to thank the animal groups that participated with us in this,” Murphy said.
Murphy and Cobb said it will take a serious incident or a repeat offender for city staff to hand out citations.
“Staff will use common sense,” Murphy said,”the police department and environmental department staff. If somebody takes their dog for a walk and doesn’t see the sign, our cops aren’t going to go and tackle them. (The ordinances) gives the authorities (the ability) to give a warning and if (residents) don’t want to cooperate then they can give them a citation. We don’t pass laws to be big government. We pass laws to protect citizens.”