BY CARLI TEPROFF
The second Ramon Baez opened his front door Tuesday afternoon, Romeo made a run for it.
With the front gate open as well, Romeo shot into the street, a dangerous scenario for a dog.
But just as Romeo put his paw in the street, North Miami animal code enforcement Officer Tami Fox happened to drive by.
She quickly pulled over at the corner of Northeast 125th Street and Griffing Boulevard, caught the dog and located Baez.
Fox, North Miami's only animal code enforcement officer, told Baez if it happens again, he could get a fine. She also told him that if a new animal code ordinance is approved Tuesday by the North Miami City Council, what would have been $50-$100 fine could be $150.
''We're lucky we caught him in time,'' Fox said after returning Romeo to Baez. ``That could have been a really bad situation.''
To address an outdated code -- the majority of the city's animal code was written in 1958 -- and encourage better animal care, Fox has been working with city staff to update the law to include heftier fines and stricter regulations.
The law would prohibit having any kind of fowl -- a recent problem plaguing the city. It also would limit the number of cats a person could have to four and restrict feeding wild cats. There is currently no limit.
''Right now, I am extremely limited with what I can do because our code is very outdated,'' Fox said, refering to citing people for feeding stray cats and keeping fowl. ``I think the new code will help address a lot of the concerns of the residents.
On a daily basis, Fox drives the entire city and often finds stray dogs, injured animals or code violations. She also tends to complaints from residents, including reports of too many animals in a house or stray dogs in their yard. One call she gets daily is reports of fowl running loose.
North Miami resident Ray Rodriguez, who lives on Northeast 146th Street and Northeast Seventh Court, said he couldn't wait until all of the chickens in his neighborhood were gone.
''They are noisy and nasty,'' said Rodriguez, who allowed Fox to set up a chicken trap in his yard.
Right now, all Fox can do is trap them and warn residents to get rid of them. With the new law, she will be able to issue a $100 ticket on the spot, which she thinks could be a deterrent.
Also addressed in the code are feral cats. The new code would require a person who wants to keep a cat colony outside to register with Fox and show an effort to spay or neuter and vaccinate the animals.
Rita Howe, who feeds a group of cats on the east side of the city, said she doesn't disagree with making sure the animals are fixed, but she doesn't see why feeding the animals is a problem.
''They don't bother anyone,'' she said.
Henry Pham, on the other hand, said the problem with cats is that they multiply quickly.
''A couple is not the problem. It's when there are so many,'' said Pham, who owns a nearby hair and nail salon.
If you go: Animal code ordinance
• What: North Miami City Council meeting.
• When: At 7 p.m. Tuesday.
• Where: City Hall, 776 NE 125th St.
• Information: Call 305-893-6511 or to get the agenda, visit www.northmiamifl.gov.
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