By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The city of Sebastopol, which prides itself on its reputation for inclusiveness, has banned animals from municipal meetings.
“We have had some meetings where we have had a dog present, and just sitting there I was thinking it is inappropriate to have animals at a council meeting,” City Manager Jack Griffin said.
Griffin said it is the first such policy in Sonoma County.
It’s a precautionary measure that was prompted by a small lap dog that was held by an audience member at two recent City Council meetings, each time without incident.
The policy was adopted Tuesday during a joint meeting of the City Council and Community Development Agency. It would ban all animals except service dogs or dogs in service training at all public meeting, including the City Council, city commissions and agencies.
“I do see a liability problem for the city,” said Councilman Guy Wilson, an attorney. “I think ordinary prudence would see us limiting it to only service animals.”
The policy passed on a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Larry Robinson opposing it and City Councilwoman Linda Kelley absent.
“We have had goats, we have had cats, we have had dogs at meetings with no problems,” Robinson said. “I think it would be out of character for Sebastopol to ban animals. Where we have had problems is more with people.”