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Portage Mayor Rick Dodd during council

Mayor Rick Dodd explains that part of the reason for the ordinance language deeming "invisible fence" type restraints for dogs is due to passersby not knowing the technology is there to keep the dog on a property as City Attorney Jesse Spankowski, council members and city staff listen at the Portage Common Council meeting Aug. 22 in the city's municipal building.

Opposition to a proposed city of Portage ordinance banning electronic fences as the only measure to keep animals in yards led to an addition making it unlawful to intentionally cause harm by confining an animal in a vehicle or small space.

An update to the ordinance that would allow the use of electronic fences was recommended Sept. 4 by the city’s Legislative and Regulatory Committee.

The Portage Common Council heard the first reading of updates to the ordinance during its meeting Thursday at the municipal building. The measure will be considered for approval during the second council meeting in September.

At the Aug. 22 council meeting, members Dennis Nachreiner and Mark Hahn opposed the ordinance. Nachreiner said it disproportionately affected people who invested money in invisible electric fence systems, which were effective in keeping their dogs on private property. The code specified that a physical tether was allowed.

City Attorney Jesse Spankowski told council members at the time that the language of the ordinance, which read, “An electric or invisible fence shall not be considered a legal means of confinement of animals,” was included because other municipalities had included it in a similar way.

It ultimately was returned to the committee for additional discussion.

According to minutes from the early September committee meeting, members talked about how electric systems could be allowed. Member Mike Charles suggested signs be installed to indicate an electric invisible fence system is in use.

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Nachreiner, who also is a member of the committee, echoed his issue with placing additional responsibility on owners with the systems. He said during the council meeting that the fear passersby might have because the system is invisible isn’t any different than being uncertain how long a leash is or being unable to see the dog has a tether attached to its collar.

Committee member Dennis Dorn said the method to keep at-large animals off of public property should simply be left to owners.

In the end, it was the removal of one word that satisfied committee members. Eric Shimpach suggested simply deleting the word “not,” which would reverse the intent of the sentence about the legality of invisible fence systems.

Members also added a section to the ordinance, “Cruelty to Animals and Birds.” Both the addition and the word omission were recommended by unanimous vote of the committee.

The added section makes it illegal to confine animals in a small enclosure that affects their health or endangers their safety, which had not previously been included in city law. The section specifies that if an animal is kept in an enclosed space with unsafe temperatures or unsafe conditions like poor ventilation and the owner of the animal cannot be located, safety officers can forcefully enter the space. The city would not be liable for any damage done to the owner’s property under state statute, and per the ordinance, the owner would be liable for the cost of medical treatment for the animal.

On Thursday, the Portage Common Council also:

  • Exempted the city from paying Columbia County Library tax on an 8-0 vote. Council member Mark Hahn was absent.
  • Agreed to remain in the Wisconsin Public Employers Group Health Insurance program on a unanimous vote.
  • Approved the type of insurance plan offered through WPE, a deductible HMO-standard without dental coverage, on a unanimous vote.
  • Accepted a stormwater easement agreement with Sally A. Bryan, 604 W. Edgewater St., and Christopher J. Otto, 524 W. Edgewater St., on a unanimous vote.
  • Transferred entitlements from Portage Municipal Airport to the Clintonville Municipal Airport via the Federal Aviation Administration on a unanimous vote.
  • Denied a taxi license application from Bryan E. DeVore on a unanimous vote as recommended by the regulatory committee based on May 2015 convictions that were not included in his application.
  • Approved a second addendum agreeing that the county will provide recycling containers at 606 Washington St. in Portage.
  • Approved an encroachment agreement with Michael McVicker 8-0 at 888 Dorothy Drive to build a deck on the back corner of his existing home.

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget.

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