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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jul. 27, 201612:00 PM EST

New rules make it easier to issue citations in animal cruelty cases

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by: David Chapman

It’s now easier for the city to crack down on pet owners who don’t properly take care of their animals.

City Council on Tuesday put more teeth into city law by allowing animal control officers to issue citations more simply.

In the past, at least two unrelated adults living in different homes had to witness 30 minutes of continuous barking, meowing, howling or whining.

Now, it takes just one person who is willing to sign an affidavit while also allowing officers to observe a recorded video or photo showing abuse or neglect. The 30-minute threshold has been reduced to 20 minutes. Each incident is considered a separate violation.

Fines from violations are deposited into a city Training and Cruelty Prevention Trust Fund.

Bill sponsor Jim Love said he pursued the improved enforcement techniques because of complaints he’d been receiving in the Riverside and Avondale neighborhoods he represents and realizing the level of proof people needed.

“Mainly, it’s about technology,” he said referring to the use of smartphones that can take pictures and recordings. “This just makes it easier.”

Also from Tuesday’s meeting:

• It was a minuscule chance, but this year’s budget won’t include a millage rate increase. Council passed a year-over-year rate that will keep the same levels of property tax collection. Past councils have contemplated setting a higher rate to allow some internal wiggle room during budget discussions, but there were no such talks this year. Council is allowed to set a higher rate and lower it later, but can’t set a rate then raise it without re-mailing notices. In the past, the estimated cost to send new notices has been in excess of $100,000.

• A district bond account subject to a recent critical council auditor’s report was made whole again. Council approved transferring close to $318,000 from the city’s banking fund to a District 10 project account. The report revealed the money had been illegally used to boost a city consultancy contract approved under former Mayor John Peyton in 2007 by Kerri Stewart, then the city housing and neighborhoods director. She is now Mayor Lenny Curry’s chief of staff. Council member Reggie Brown in 2011 asked for $400,000 in projects within his district to be funded, which district council members can do with such bond accounts. Funding for the projects was approved, however, that money was illegally diverted a week later. Of that, $318,000 went toward the contract and the way it was labeled in city systems was called “misleading,” according to the auditor’s report.

• A Northwest Jacksonville company that wants to produce metal household goods and create 23 jobs was approved to receive $200,000 in taxpayer-funded incentives. The Hans Mill Corp. expects to invest close to $12 million in real estate, machinery, information technology and other related expenses. The average wage for the new jobs is $30,000 plus benefits. The company recently bought the former Cenveo Corp. warehouse in Northwest Jacksonville for $3 million.

• Funding to repair the now-closed Fire Station No. 4 in LaVilla was approved as an emergency. The $177,000 comes from previously closed capital projects and will correct water intrusion damage and complete air quality improvements that have caused the closure.

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