After several months of discussion, Finney County commissioners Tuesday approved a resolution addressing dogs running loose that includes increased fines and more specific language about the definition of an at-large dog.
According to the resolution, an at-large dog is one outside of a fence, enclosure or device that restrains dogs to a particular area; a dog outside the owners’ or tenant’s land; a dog not under control of the dog’s owner or other authorized person by leash or lead; and dogs within one half-mile of an occupied dwelling or another’s confined cattle, horses, sheep, goats or swine.
The resolution also deems dogs tethered to an object within range of a public thoroughfare as at-large.
The resolution includes fines ranging from $100 per dog for a first-time offense up to $500 per dog for a third or subsequent offense.
Those who have a license obtained under the state’s Pet Animal Act, which applies to breeders, kennel operators or anyone else licensed to sell or breed dogs, is exempt from the resolution.
Former commissioner Roman Halbur originally brought the issue up in December 2014 due to concerns about dogs potentially harming livestock and children.
Commissioners discussed the issue in January and July but needed more clarification about what an at-large dog is and what types of property would be affected.
Originally, the resolution wouldn’t have affected landowners with more than 40 acres of land. The rationale was dogs running around on farms, where neighbors are spread out from one another, would not cause as many problems as dogs running in residential areas closer to city limits.
The resolution approved Tuesday included language that enforces the resolution if an animal is running loose a half-mile from another occupied residence. Initially, the commission discussed a 100-yard distance.
County resident Wiley Wesley took issue with the distance language.
“It needs to pertain to everyone in the county. I know what you’re trying to say. You don’t want any problems further out with the farmers and stuff,” Wiley said. “But why does every resolution have to exempt a class of people?”
County Administrator Randy Partington said the language applies to homes in close proximity to one another.
“So it was mainly to address the residential areas or areas where there’s houses right beside another property owner’s livestock,” Partington said.
Partington explained the farther out in the county properties are, and the larger the acreage, the less likely residences are going to be within a half-mile of each other.
Halbur said during Tuesday’s meeting that farmers who are not in close proximity to other residences should be allowed to have their dogs roam.
“I still think you need to allow farmers out in that area to run their dogs — that’s their watch dog, that’s their police protection,” Halbur said. “That’s what protects their shop, their equipment and everything they have around there. That’s what a good watch dog is for.”
If there is an issue with a dog getting into someone’s livestock, Halbur said, farmers have their own way of handling it.
“I know what any other farmer would do if a neighbor’s dog gets over in their cattle. They will shoot the damn thing,” he said. “But we don’t need to regulate them so they don’t have a guard dog by their place for protection.”
Commissioner Dave Jones agreed, saying that a person who lives 10 miles north of Kalvesta should not be held to the same standards as a person who lives in close proximity to the city limits.
Commissioners approved the resolution 4-0. Commissioner Larry Jones was not present.
Commissioners agreed to re-visit the resolution in six months to determine whether there needs to be any further revision.
In other business Tuesday:
• Commissioners approved an online program inventory agreement with the Center for Priority Based Budgeting for $10,000 that will allow the county to prioritize spending based on the importance of a product or service provided by the county.
Skylar Swords, director of public health and safety, presented the commission with information about the budgeting system.
Swords said, for example, instead of cutting 10 percent across all departments, priority based budgeting would allow department heads to first determine what programs or services are most beneficial to the community and allow the commission to cut lower priority items based on that analysis.
The biggest hurdle to adopting the process, Partington said, will be the initial amount of time required of department heads to gather information about their programs and then prioritize them.
But as department heads, both Swords and public works director John Ellerman, who attended a recent conference about the priority based budgeting process, said they are in favor of the approach.
“I see the benefit to it. I’m not looking forward to the work that I fear has to be put into it, but it makes a lot of sense to me, what they presented to us,” Ellerman said.
• Commissioners approved the design for the Lake Road Bridge project at a cost of $54,292.
The project involves a replacement and road alignment for two bridges north of Kansas Highway 156, about three-quarters of a mile west of Kansas Highway 23.
• Commissioners approved continuation of Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage for Finney County employees but voted against the recommendation made by the county’s human resources director, Darlene Lucas, to change the county’s supplemental insurer to Allstate.
Commissioner Lon Pishny abstained from the vote because he is a licensed Aflac representative.
Lucas said the change would apply only to new employees and that it would cost them a few dollars less per pay period than the Aflac coverage.
But after much discussion, commissioners chose to leave the supplemental insurance for all employees with the county’s current supplemental insurance vendor, Aflac.