Curfew set for animals on Strip


Animals on the Strip now have a curfew. The County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to ban animals on pedestrian bridges and sidewalks from noon to 5 a.m. each day.

Restricted areas include Las Vegas Boulevard from Sahara Avenue to Sunset Road and 200 yards on each side of the Strip.

It wasn't known how aggressively county animal control will enforce the new ordinance.

Exempted animals include service animals under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, animals used by law enforcement on the job and animals whose owners have obtained a parade permit, special use permit, business license or other written government permission. Household pets must be on a leash or other restraint no longer than 3 feet.

The proposal was sponsored by Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who said tourists complaining of animal cruelty to the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society prompted the discussion. Commissioners plan to review how the curfew is working each year.

A civil rights group said the ordinance could end up in court.

Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, contends the ordinance change is unconstitutional, "poorly written" and appears to target panhandlers and the homeless.

"People have a right to use the public sidewalk," Lichtenstein said . "If there's going to be a restriction, there's a burden on the government to show a necessity for the restriction and that it's narrowly tailored. Here, no one can tell me what the specific rationale is and how it's narrowly tailored to meet that objective."

Lichtenstein said the ordinance probably will be challenged. Should that happen, the ACLU would "join in," he said.

Humane Society President Karen Layne said she had worked on a similar plan two years ago in North Las Vegas for pet vendors who sold animals during the hot summer months at a swap meet. She said animals were being exploited on the Strip, and she supported implementing a curfew.

"This is not a homeless problem," Layne said. "This is about animals being exploited or being used to obtain money. That's our concern. We've been told animals have been drugged, that they're terrified. From a public safety aspect, what happens if those animals bite someone? There are no good outcomes when animals bite."

During the meeting, Giunchigliani said a man recently was bitten by a dog featured in a news report regarding the curfew and had to get rabies shots.

But police and county animal control officers might face enforcement challenges. Some panhandlers on the Strip said they would work around the law by claiming their pets are service animals with all of the proper paperwork, making them exempt under the law. Asking for proof of service animal status is illegal under the disabilities act.

A nimal owners whose pets break curfew could face a misdemeanor charge and be subject to fines and imprisonment, just as they would with any other animal ordinance violation. The first offense is $100, a second offense is $250, and subsequent offenses are $500.

Street performer Ray Cordova, an Elvis impersonator who performs on the Strip with his dog, Akita, said his livelihood would be affected by the change. He accepts tips to fund his Christian ministry, which helps the homeless, Cordova told commissioners before they passed the ordinance.

"She's obedient and well-trained," Cordova said. "People love her. ... I know a few people are complaining and concerned about cruelty to animals, but I can assure you my dog is my best friend. She's very close to me."

County officials concerned about "further degrading of the brand" of the Strip referred their original pet concerns to the Resort Corridor Workgroup, which was established by commissioners and assembled by County Manager Don Burnette last year. That action took the discussion out of the public forum and into a secret meeting setting.

The Strip committee, which is expected to wrap up its meetings within the next few weeks, does not post minutes or agendas and does not allow public attendance.

The group is composed of gaming industry and tourist representatives examining issues on the Strip, including street performers and handbillers. The group reviewed a new draft of the ordinance prepared by the district attorney's office.

It is unclear when the group will make recommendations to the commission, but this appears to be the first proposal the group has weighed in on.

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

 

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