Animal neglect

The city of Tyler is looking to fill the gray areas in state law when it comes to animal neglect.

City of Tyler Director of Animal Services Shawn Markmann said a proposed ordinance would help better define areas such as adequate food and shelter, without having to elevate less severe issues to referral for criminal prosecution.

“We’re looking for maybe neglect versus cruelty," Markmann said. “There needed to be a middle ground, and the state Legislature has kind of kicked this down the road so many times, they’re basically leaving it up to the local jurisdiction.”

The state’s animal neglect law is either a Class A misdemeanor or a felony, whereas the city ordinance would create room for a Class C misdemeanor citation.

Markmann said that so often the cases they’re called out for can be solved through educating pet owners, but the lack of clarity in state law leaves little room for action between education and prosecution.

“Right now it’s either all of nothing,” he said. “This is a step forward at the local level, where the state has not moved on this issue. “

Markmann said the department can only currently issue citations for lack of rabies vaccination. When it comes to adequate shelter, though, it needed a better definition to help protect animals. He said they’ve been on calls with shelter ranging from everything from a camper trailer on cinder blocks to a tarp tied to the home.

“Our primary goal is to get people into compliance,” he said. “Most of the times we can just go out there and help people out by just demonstrating proper animal husbandry.”

He said only about 18 of the thousands of cases his department has responded to have had to be elevated to the level of criminal prosecution. Having a middle ground will ensure Animal Services has the flexibility needed to do the job, Markmann said.

Part of that job also includes helping animal owners with the city’s Pet Food bank, demonstrating proper shelter and donating supplies such as beds.

“Our first mode is to just go out there and educate people,” he said.

The proposed ordinance will be considered by the City Council during its regularly scheduled meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 212 N. Bonner Ave.

Residents wishing to address the council must fill out a speaker card at the receptionist's desk outside of the City Council Chamber.

In other City Council business

The City Council will consider accepting a “Certificate of Achievement for Planning Excelling” from the Texas chapter of the American Planning Association.

The council also will vote whether to approve several drainage and improvement projects including a $1.5 million road improvement project on Marking Luther King jr. Boulevard and nearly $1m for a standpipe rehabilitation on Troup Highway.

The City also will consider renaming several parts of the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden the “Tyler Botanical Garden” Those areas are the Shade Garden, Idea Garden, Sunshine Garden and Heritage Garden which are on the southern end of the Rose Garden near South Peach Avenue and West Houston Street.

Council will also vote whether to approve entering an agreement for consulting services for the Rose Complex Master Plan with Fitzpatrick Architects. The contract is valued at $1.6 million

The city council also approved a $1.5 million contract with Fitzpatrick Architects, which will see the firm steer Phase 1 of the Rose Complex Master Plan. The plans for the $21 million project include a new 37,500 square-foot conference center, renovation of the Mayfair building, a park and food truck court.

Construction of the project could begin by late next year. Heines said the city would have more than 80,000 square-feet of usable conference space at the complex between the new conference center, Rose Garden Center and May Fair building.

Heines said he was glad to finally see the project come to fruition. While the city wanted a private-public partnership with a hotel, he said that proved to be unattainable at this time.

More than half of the project will be paid for by a 2 percent hotel occupancy tax approved more than a decade ago as former mayors and city council members worked on the first steps toward making the project a reality.

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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