Helena council throws out amendment to dog ordinance

The Helena City Council Monday night withdrew controversial proposed changes to an ordinance that sets rules for dogs in city parks.

The original ordinance states dogs must be kept on leashes at the Amphitheater and in city parks, and that dogs are banned from the recreational ball fields. The amended ordinance would have also banned dogs from special events, such as the Buck Creek Festival.

Councilmember Cris Nelson, who proposed withdrawing the amendment during the council meeting, said many citizens expressed concerns, forcing the council to rethink the changes.

“There’s been so much discussion where the citizens were against the ordinance the way it was being presented that we discussed among ourselves and decided to withdraw it,” Nelson said.

She said the council would hold a work session to discuss the ordinance and any future changes.

Councilmember Jerry Pate said he received a form e-mail from two Helena citizens opposed to the amended ordinance.

The e-mail read, in part, “It saddens me when a city with such potential makes an ordinance which negatively effects so many of its residents. You can be assured that when people find out about this it will hit all the papers and the Helena residents will not be happy.”

Pate said while he understood citizens’ concerns, the amended ordinance was meant to ensure citizens’ safety.

“It’s not about punishing anybody,” he said. “It’s about the safety issue that was brought to our attention.”

Citizen Victoria Penhale, who has spoken out against the amendment, said she was surprised, but pleased, the amendment was thrown out.

“I just thought there would be more discussion,” she said. “I’m pleased, however, I’d also like to encourage the citizens to stay aware of what’s going on in our community and to voice any concerns to the council.”