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NEW PORT RICHEY DROPS CONTROVERSIAL PET LIMIT

In front of nearly 100 people, the council gives up on a ban on feeding stray animals.

The City Council approved a new animal control ordinance late Tuesday night - minus the controversial provisions that had attracted a crowd of nearly 100 people to City Hall.

The council dropped its three-pet limit per household and nixed a ban on feeding stray dogs and cats as well as ducks and other wildlife. The changes brought a round of applause from audience members, most of whom spoke out against those two portions of the ordinance.

The rest of the ordinance, which spelled out procedures for handling abandoned pets and dangerous dogs, among other things, was approved.

New Port Richey administrators had asked the council to come up with another number for the pet limit. But council members said that was a tricky task, considering a person with just one animal could be a neglectful owner.

"I don't know what that reasonable number is," said council member Rob Marlowe.

Deputy Mayor Ginny Miller had wanted to keep the restrictions on feeding strays in place, saying such feedings make the problem worse. Under the proposed ordinance, violators could have faced fines of up to $500.

"I believe feeding stray colonies is bad for those animals," she said.

But others said they weren't so sure. Marlowe said he was struck by a scene on his way home from work the other day: A man and his young daughter feeding ducks at Orange Lake.

"I don't think that should be criminal," he said.

It is a rare subject that attracts nearly 100 people to a City Council meeting, typically attended only by a handful of administrators, a couple of regulars and local reporters.

At times Tuesday evening, Mayor Dan Tipton admonished the murmuring crowd to quiet down during the council's discussion, which followed 1 1/2 hours of public comment. Many of those who spoke did not live in the city; one woman had driven from Tarpon Springs to speak against the ordinance.

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