Pet Plan: City offers option to nuisance pet fine

Apr. 18—At McAlester Mayor John Browne's request, the city of McAlester is offering an option to some who face nuisance animal fines stemming from pets that are loose and roaming.

Instead of paying a fine of approximately $250, they can instead opt to get their pet spayed or neutered, as the situation may require.

Browne presented the proposal at the first city council meeting in April and city councilors unanimously approved the measure.

He said the idea for the spay/neuter option came up when he met with individuals from the Pittsburg County Animal Shelter and the local Trap and Release Program, which catches feral cats, then returns them to the place they were caught after they are spayed or neutered. Other issues discussed included dogs running loose.

Browne said those convicted or found guilty in McAlester Municipal Court of having a nuisance animal will now have an option to get their animal spayed or neutered if it hasn't been already, instead of paying the fine.

"It was a small step we could take that seemed like a win/win for everyone," Browne said.

He said he first spoke with McAlester Municipal Judge Deborah Hackler and City Prosecutor Mark Fields before presenting the proposal to the city council.

"They thought it was a good idea," Browne said.

While the option would not apply to those whose nuisance animal has not already been spayed or neutered, Browne noted that those animals which have not are much more likely to get loose and become a nuisance than those which have.

Since the ordinance passed without being declared an emergency, it's set to go into effect within 30 days from April 9.

As amended, the ordinance states any person convicted of having an animal that's declared a public nuisance may, at the request of the person convicted and if the animal has not already been "altered or sterilized," the judgment of the municipal court shall be temporarily stayed and the animal owner will have 30 days to get it spayed or neutered.

"Upon satisfactorily demonstrating to the municipal court alteration or sterilization has successfully occurred, the municipal court shall amend the judgment and dismiss the underlying charge..." the ordinance states.

The measure was listed on the city council meeting agenda as "Discussion and possible action to amend Section 10-79, Animal Nuisance of the City of McAlester Code of Ordinances.

Owners who are convicted of owning a nuisance pet will not get off entirely without paying a penalty, even if they do successfully participate in the spay and neuter option.

Although the ordinance calls for the fine to be dropped, the pet owner convicted of having a nuisance animal will still have to pay court costs, the ordinance states.

Joining Browne in voting to approve the measure were Ward 1 Councilor Levi Gilmore; Justin Few, Ward 2; Chris Stone, Ward 3; Randy Roden, Ward 4; Billy Jack Boatright, Ward 5 and Kevin Beaty, Ward 6.