PAWNEE ROCK — A citizen of Pawnee Rock is upset that she has been asked to remove her cow from the city limits, and has responded with a claim the animal is a therapy animal. At a special city council meeting Wednesday night, Pawnee Rock Mayor Linda McCowan asked the city attorney, Ron Smith, if the city’s livestock ordinance is adequate to address the problem, or if another ordinance addressing service and therapy animals is necessary.
The Tribune contacted the Pawnee Rock city offices Thursday morning and spoke with Shane Bowman, Pawnee Rock’s ordinance officer. He noticed the cow at the property belonging to Dawn Ramey earlier this summer.
Bowman spoke with her and learned the animal was healing from an injury, and Ramey intended to move it once it was healed. At a later visit, Ramey mentioned the injury had not healed well, and she was considering having the cow butchered, Bowman said. It was then he sent Ramey a citation asking her to remove the cow within 10 days.
Ramey visited the city offices to complain, according to McCowan, stating the cow was a therapy animal. Normally, after the 10-day period had passed, a notice to appear for a hearing at Municipal Court would have been sent, but McCowan said she asked the hearing be delayed until the city could consult with Smith about the therapy animal claim.
Wednesday night, Smith assured the city council the livestock ordinance already in place is adequate. He also noted it wasn’t uncommon for people to attempt to skirt existing ordinances by claiming an animal as needed for therapeutic purposes. He provided an example, where an owner of a Pit Bull terrier claimed her dog was a therapy animal in an attempt to skirt the town’s breed-specific ordinance. The animal was not specially trained in that instance.
To provide further clarification, he offered to draft an ordinance that allows the use of specially trained service animals that fall within the ADA requirements, which define a service animal as, “ a dog specially trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.” The requirements also include limited provisions for miniature horses trained as service animals.
“I would leave therapy animals out of it,” he said.
By not addressing therapy animals in the ordinance, they are automatically excluded, Smith said.
Council member Joyce Link asked for a clarification of what makes a therapy animal. She noted it appeared to be personal to the owner, and opinions could differ from person to person.
“My definition of a therapy animal might be different. Because I might have a snake wrapped around me and I like it and you don’t like the snake,” she said.
“But you have to realize that you’re also in public,” Smith said. “What you do in your home is up to you, but I think if you are going to have a snake here, I think most people would want to have a vote.”
He stated he could draft a city ordinance with specialty animals mentioned.
“You can allow (that person) to take a look at that ordinance and if she has language she wants to insert there, then it’s up to the council to decide if they want to allow it,” he said.
Council member Chris Mead said she didn’t see the point. Service animals are already covered under federal law, she said, and livestock is already excluded by the livestock ordinance.
Council president Deb Bader spoke up, stating Mead was correct.
“Basically, I feel as far as the city goes, we meet the requirements of ADA for service animals, we have an ordinance against livestock or animals on our ordinance, then we’ve met our burden to protect the public,” she said. She suggested the municipal judge can decide based on ordinances if Ramey can keep her cow.
Council member Paul Umbel played devil’s advocate, noting therapy animals are recognized in 50 states, and noted that for $89, a person can get certification for an emotional support animal via the internet, though how it would stand up in court is murky at best.
McCowan worried if the judge were to rule in her favor, what the outcome for the city would be.
The Tribune reached out to Ramey for comment via facebook messenger on Thursday afternoon. Her case is set to be heard by Pawnee Rock Municipal Judge Dale Snyder on Sept. 12 at the Pawnee Rock city offices.
‘Cow cuddling’ a new therapy trend
BY VERONICA COONS
According to a July 12 report by Elisa Mala in The New York Times, cow connection therapy which began years ago in the Netherlands has found its way to North America and is now being offered at an upstate New York’s Mountain Horse Farm. The horse and farm sanctuary offers private hour-long sessions ($75 per couple) for one to four people a few days a week, where people can spend time interacting with and getting to know cows Bonnie and Bella.
The sessions are overseen by an equine therapist and a handler who offer instruction on how to approach the cows and coaching on remaining calm and making a connection through touch and mindfulness. Hand feeding treats are a popular activity.