To own this many dogs, you would need a “Dog Fancier” license under Eureka’s updated animal ordinance | Image by Pixabay user JenniGut. Pixabay license

During its Tuesday night meeting the Eureka City Council will discuss the city’s updated animal ordinance, which would alter the city’s rules surrounding pet ownership for the first time in over half a century.

The Eureka Police Animal Control Department has been working to update the existing ordinance for about five years, holding several public meetings, conducting research and rewriting the ordinance several times. After holding a public workshop on Mar. 9, city staff has made some additional changes that it hopes will address the community’s concerns.

For one thing, the ordinance has some less restrictive language surrounding the numbers of specific types of pets residents can keep and focuses more on updating the rules of appropriate animal care.

“Essentially what we found was that putting hard limits on the numbers is not realistic,” Animal Control Officer Celeste Villarreal told the Outpost in a recent phone interview.“Really our goal is to implement an ordinance that ensures public safety, ensures the quality of life of our residents.”

The current draft ordinance, for example, no longer limits the number of small rodents — such as mice, rats and guinea pigs — someone can keep (in its previous version owners were limited to 10.) This is with the exception of rabbits, of which 20 or less would be allowed on properties under 5,000 square feet and up to 40 would be allowed on larger properties.

As for miniature goats and miniature pigs, the current ordinance still limits ownership to two (with an exception for baby mini goats or pigs under the age of four weeks.) However, the latest draft also allows for up to two full-size goats or pigs within city limits, as long as your property is at least 11,000 square feet. Horses, ponies or cows would only be allowed on properties at least 21,000 square feet in size.

In addition to requiring dog and cat owners to obtain a “Dog Fancier” or “Cat Fancier” license if they own more than three of each type of furry friend, the ordinance now also requires an “Exotic Animal Fancier” license for anyone wanting to keep more than 10 exotic animals — including reptiles, amphibians and parrots. Many other exotic animals — such as bats, crocodiles, venomous snakes, porcupines and anteaters — are strictly prohibited. But keep in mind that those animals are already illegal to keep unless you are a licensed zoo.

The council will decide on the cost for the “fancier” licenses, which would require an annual renewal. But Villarreal says that these licenses are not going to be expensive or require a complicated process. Since dogs are already required to be licensed, there would be no additional fee for obtaining a “Dog Fancier” license, Villarreal said. When you go in to license your fourth dog, you would just apply for a fancier license instead of a regular one.

Additionally, the latest draft of the ordinance includes more language around proper animal care, such as stricter requirements for what is considered an acceptable shelter. Under this ordinance shelters with wire or grid flooring that doesn’t protect the animals feet would not be acceptable and using metal drums, abandoned vehicles, uncovered porches or lean-tos as shelters would also be prohibited.

Officer Villarreal and Eureka Police Captain Chief Brian Stephens wanted to remind the public that the primary purpose of this ordinance is to create a framework for legal, safe and ethical animal ownership. Penalties would be complaint-based and the department plans to put its energy into dealing with dangerous or unsanitary animal situations, not penalizing people who haven’t gotten around to obtaining a “fancier” license. 

“We put a lot of work into this [ordinance] and we really think this is the roadmap for responsible pet ownership,” Capt. Stephens told the Outpost. “We really appreciate everyone’s input.”

If the council decides to move forward, the ordinance would be brought back for adoption at a later meeting. You can view the full draft ordinance here.


In other business, the council will consider drafting an ordinance that would require higher pay for grocery store employees during the COVID-19 emergency. 

The issue was brought forward by UFCW Local 5 — the local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which has been working to obtain higher compensation for grocery store workers who have continuously worked throughout the pandemic. Many cities, including San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles have recently adopted “hazard” or “hero” pay ordinances, most requiring grocery stores to pay employees somewhere between an additional $3 to $5 an hour.

Eureka Co-op | File photo

The purpose of the additional pay, Local 5 North Coast Director John Frahm told the Outpost, is to acknowledge the health and safety risks of essential grocery store workers, many who have been working with the public throughout the last year. Additionally, Frahm says that grocery stores have largely seen huge profit increases during the pandemic. Brookings Institution reported that the 13 largest retail and grocery store companies in the United States earned $17.7 billion more in the first three quarters of 2020 than they did in 2019.

However, there have been some doubts about whether local grocery stores have seen these same profit increases. When the Arcata City Council discussed a hazard pay ordinance, several council members said that they were concerned about the burden this would place on some of our local businesses and one grocery store owner said that they had actually seen a decrease in profits since 2019.

But Frahm says that local grocery store employees have been saying this is the busiest they’ve ever been. “The grocers in the store will tell you it’s like Christmas every week,” he said.

Local 5 suggests that the ordinance last until the county is in the yellow tier or a minimum of 90 days and apply to any large store that “devotes 15% or more of its interior space to the sale of household foodstuffs for offsite consumption.” Grocery stores that have 500 or more employees nationally and more than 15 employees in Eureka would be asked to pay an additional $4 an hour and stores that have more than 25 but less 500 employees in Eureka would pay an additional $3.

Of course, if the Eureka City Council decides to move forward with a hazard pay ordinance, it would decide the parameters, such as the amount of the pay raise, the size and type of stores that would have to pay and the duration of the ordinance.

You can read the full draft ordinance suggestions here.