LAS VEGAS >> A county commissioner insists she’s not trying to push panhandlers off the Las Vegas Strip with a measure that she says would prevent pets from having to endure sizzling summer sidewalks in Sin City’s neon corridor.
The Clark County commission is set Tuesday to consider Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani’s revised ordinance letting pet owners legally walk or carry their animals from 5 a.m. to noon on walkways and pedestrian bridges linking Las Vegas’ glittering resorts.
Giunchigliani told the Las Vegas Review-Journal she sought a compromise after her similar measure in January — which noted that animals tend to "promote loitering and unsanitary conditions" — drew howls of protest from animal lovers.
"The business folks came up with a good alternative that allows them to have their clients in pet-friendly hotels but protects cruelty issues with animals not being out in the hottest or coldest parts of the day," Giunchigliani said.
The bustling corridors funneling tourists between casinos are popular places for panhandlers who sometimes bring animals along as they seek a sympathetic handout from passers-by.
"I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what we’re doing unless it’s aggressive panhandling," Dave Simpson told the Review-Journal in January as he sat on a footbridge near The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas with his pregnant girlfriend, their black-and-white beagle and a sign reading, "I’m ugly. She’s stupid. The dog’s hungry."
Critics including the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada called Giunchigliani’s original proposal unconstitutional. ACLU attorney Allen Lichtenstein noted that panhandling is protected speech, and it wasn’t illegal for people to have an animal with them.
Giunchigliani, a Democrat and a homeless advocate, said then and now that she wasn’t aiming to curb panhandling but was responding to tourist complaints to the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society about animal cruelty.
The revised law would give pet owners seven morning hours to treat their pets to a stroll on the Strip, as long as the animal is on a leash of 3 feet or less. Snakes over 2 feet long would be banned altogether.
Exempt would be animals under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, working animals used by law enforcement on the job, and animals whose owners have a parade permit, special use permit, business license or other written government permission.
Violations would be a misdemeanor, with fines ranging from $100 for a first offense to $500 for multiple offenses. Plans call for police volunteers to hand out literature explaining the new ordinance, if it passes.
Commission Chairwoman Susan Brager called the Strip an important venue that needs rules, and Commissioner Steve Sisolak told the Review-Journal he thought the ordinance might have to be revised after passage to address unintended consequences.