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FOREST CITY | The City Council has sent a proposed animal ordinance back to the safety committee for reconsideration of pet licensing fees. 

The vote during the Dec. 17 meeting was 5-2. 

The council was scheduled to vote on the second of three required readings of the ordinance that night.

Sending it back to committee instead means the entire approval process will start over. 

Citizens have voiced concerns about aspects of the proposed changes to the ordinance, particularly the fees for a licensing system city officials want to launch to make it easier to return lost pets to their owners. 

The ordinance as approved during its first reading on Dec. 3 included a $10 lifetime fee for microchipped dogs or cats and a $60 lifetime fee for unchipped pets. 

Forest City residents who attended that meeting, as well as the Dec. 17 meeting, asked the council to reconsider the fee schedule. 

During the Dec. 17 meeting, Tami Nelson said those who move into some of the income-based apartments in Forest City are already paying pet deposits ranging from $120 to $300. 

She also said she knows disabled residents who need a pet "to keep them calm." 

"They are already struggling with medication bills and grocery bills," not to mention veterinarian bills and pet deposits, according to Nelson. 

Other residents at the meeting said they wanted a fee structure that would include a discount for those with spayed or neutered pets. 

Another suggestion was a grace period of three to six months that would give owners a chance to get their pets registered before the fee kicks in. 

Dan Davis said a lot of people have told him they would rather have an annual fee than a lifetime fee. 

City Administrator Barb Smith suggested a $10 lifetime fee for chipped animals and annual fees of $20 for spayed or neutered pets and $30 for unaltered pets. 

Davis said he wants those fees to be even lower.

"We aren't here to make money," he said.

Davis also said he likes the idea of a three-month period where owners would not be charged to register their pets "just to get people in." 

Smith said the pet licensing program would involve administrative costs that taxpayers who don't own pets would have to pay for if there isn't enough revenue from fees. 

Councilman Dennis Zehren said he would like to see the ordinance sent back to the safety committee because there were still too many questions that couldn't be answered that night. 

Councilman Win Pehrson agreed. 

"That's what committees are for, people," he said. "We don't need to sit here until midnight to try to figure this thing out."

Councilmen Karl Wooldridge and Brad Buffington voted against sending the ordinance back to committee. 

Wooldridge said the council has been working on the animal ordinance for six months and all that's left is "haggling over the fee." 

"I don't want to go back to square one," he said. "It's a little frustrating that we can't figure this out."

The safety committee will discuss the animal ordinance at 3 p.m. on Dec. 26 in the Council Chambers at City Hall. 

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