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FOREST CITY | The first of three readings of a revised animal control ordinance that requires dog and cat owners to license their pets will be on the agenda for the Dec. 3 City Council meeting. 

During the Nov. 19 council meeting, the members approved the wording of the proposed ordinance, incorporating several changes suggested at a meeting earlier in the month. 

The city's safety committee originally proposed lifetime licensing fees of $50 for animals that haven't been microchipped and $20 for those that are chipped.

The new proposed fee for each dog or cat that hasn't been chipped is $60, but the fee for chipped animals was dropped to $10. 

Councilman Ron Holland said the Forest City Veterinary Clinic charges $47 to microchip a pet. 

Uses for the licensing fee revenue would include paying for a kennel for the police department to house the dogs and cats they pick up, as well as tags and other administrative costs for the licensing program. 

City Administrator Barb Smith said the idea behind revising the ordinance is to make it easier to return loose dogs and cats to their owners, as well as to identify the owner of a dog if it bites someone. 

Councilman Dan Davis said some of the money raised through the pet licensing fees would be used to pay for a chip reader. 

If police officers pick up loose dogs and cats that don't have a license tag, they would be able can scan those animals to see if they are chipped -- even on nights and weekends when the animal clinic is closed, according to Davis. 

If the pets are chipped, the owners can be found quickly through a registry of chipped animals, he said. 

Sometimes even licensed pets might not have their tag on if their collar came off when they got loose, according to Davis. 

Forest City resident Marcia Tweeten asked if city officials would be supportive of a shelter being started separate from the police department to house stray dogs and cats. 

Without such as facility, "We are putting a Band-Aid on a situation that requires surgery," she said. 

Mayor Barney Ruiter said efforts have been made several times over the years to start a shelter in the area, but it's a difficult business to keep going so they all closed. 

Smith agreed, noting most animal shelters rely heavily on donations from the public. 

She said sometimes the Humane Society of North Iowa in Mason City will house stray dogs and cats from Forest City if they have room. However, Forest City has to pay a fee for this.  

Smith said another use of the revenue from the pet licensing program would be to pay the Humane Society to house strays from Forest City. 

The safety committee originally proposed setting a limit of six dog and/or cats per household.

However, after receiving input from residents during the Nov. 5 council meeting, committee members decided to change the wording so residents can have more than six with the city's permission. 

Kathy McEnelly, who has seven cats, thanked the city for that change. 

"I feel like you are hearing us," she said. 

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