Mental health and animal safety discussed at the city council meeting

Flagstaff City Council met to continue and advance the discussion on animal keeping code amendments. This code provides regulations for citizens who house animals on their property, and it has received both support and opposition from Flagstaff residents. Ordinance 2019-36 and resolution 2019-53 declare a formal document be filed to amend the current animal keeping code, which was last revised in 2016.

Flagstaff Sustainability Specialist Dylan Lenzen explained how animal keeping needs a more precise and accurate system.

“Existing data is limited and inconsistent,” Lenzen said. “There is currently no record of animal keeping unless a property receives a complaint. We need to improve data tracking.”

The animal keeping code is designed to maintain animal safety and manage complaints from neighbors of animal owners. During the meeting, numerous citizens publicly stated complaints of poorly kept animals. Others came forward and asserted that current regulations are too harsh on animal owners — stating that most of which are responsible enough to care for animals properly.

One common complaint expressed by Flagstaff residents is the detectable and rancid odor generated by various animals. In response to this concern, council suggested that a certain obligatory distance be kept between animals and neighboring homes.

Council debated how to enact these aforementioned amendments. There was also further discussion on a proposed animal keeping permit application fee. While the fee was initially set at $80, the ordinance allows the council to determine a decrease in cost.

As part of the ordinance, the council was given four options regarding how new amendments could be enforced.

Option A would include the $80 permit fee and a questionnaire to improve data tracking. Option B would also feature a questionnaire, but it would allow a negotiated and refined fee. Option C would entirely eliminate the mandatory fee for submitting permit applications. The final choice, Option D, is for council to keep the current animal keeping code — and not make any amendments.

Ultimately, city council moved forward with the ordinance and resolution. The specifics of amendments will be discussed at future meetings.

During a different portion of Tuesday evening's meeting, Flagstaff’s Stronger as One Coalition was addressed, with specific references to mental health resources and availability. Deputy County Manager Marie Peoples presented about this organization, which aims to increase knowledge and resources surrounding mental health.

Peoples said Coconino County's suicide rate is higher than the national average. Demographically, data shows that 15 to 24-year-olds comprise the majority of deaths by suicide. Considering these concerning statistics, Peoples emphasized that all lives matter on a personal and intimate basis.

“Our community members are more than numbers,” Peoples said. “The effect of any death by suicide is widespread and is spurring community activism.”

Mayor Evans thanked the coalition for its efforts within the community.