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Commission takes action on animal welfare

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POLSON – An approved ordinance will better protect pets in city limits. City code compliance officer Matt Ellermann introduced the ordinance. He said he gets between two and eight complaints of animal abuse or neglect every month. In recent months, the number of reports has increased. 

Before the ordinance was approved, there was no city or state code protecting animals from being abused or neglected. As a result, Ellermann could not issue tickets to those who were mistreating their animals. 

“What we want is accountability for people that are neglecting animals,” said Polson Police Chief Wade Nash. 

Nash said complaints of animal neglect increase in the winter, which is when pets are left outside in cold temperatures. Nash said cities across the country are taking action to hold pet owners accountable for their animals’ well being. 

Under the new ordinance, Ellermann will be able to write citations for city residents, but not tribal members who abuse or neglect their dogs, according to the criteria outlined in the ordinance. 

Nash said the city would not be “overbearing” in enforcing the code but would intervene when an animal’s life is in danger. 

Commissioner Jan Howlett moved to adopt the ordinance. “I hate watching someone beat an animal,” she said. The ordinance will have its second reading at the next commission meeting. 

At the same meeting, the city decided not to adopt an ordinance that would have expanded the pool of potential members of the Polson Redevelopment Agency. The proposed ordinance would have allowed those who are employees or business owners in the city of Polson to serve on the advisory committee even if they do not own property in the city. 

PRA chairperson Gayle Siemers said a member of the committee recently stepped down after discovering they did not live within the city limits. The change would allow that individual to return to the committee. 

A citizen raised concerns over whether this change is allowed under Montana state law. After discussing the implications for other committees and the PRA, the commission unanimously decided not to approve the ordinance.

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