ANTIOCH -- The city is hoping to add a little more bark and bite to its animal rules.

The revised ordinance, set to be formally approved early this month, keeps much of Antioch's criteria in place for licensing and care for animals; clarifies the penalties for violations and the appeals process; and expands the list of unlawful acts.

Aside from a few minor changes, Antioch's animal rules have not been updated since the early 1980s.

One new rule is that feeding feral cats on public property would be prohibited. Also, a city permit would be required to keep more than five cats on a property.

The new rules also set provisions for potentially dangerous and vicious animals, including remedies for attacks on private property and requirements for keeping an animal after it has been declared vicious.

Most of Antioch's new rules align the city more closely with state law, police Lt. Diane Aguinaga said.

One other new rule is that after a dog or cat has been impounded twice, it must be spayed or neutered before released back to its owner.

The City Council gave the go-ahead for the ordinance last month. No animal advocates or members of the public spoke at the Dec. 10 meeting, but some have spoken up in the past week.

Karen Kops, president of the Homeless Animals Rescue Program, or HARP, said there are some good parts to the rules, but also a lot of unanswered questions that warrant further discussion.

One part Kops is against is not allowing volunteers to provide water to abandoned cats, especially in Antioch's hot summer months.

"It's an inhumane solution," Kops said. "There should be rules that have compassion and are more forward-thinking instead of directing them to be starved to death. We need to try to work that out."

The update was prompted by a number of high-profile animal cases, including a serious attack on 10-year-old Hunter Kilbourn of Martinez in August by two pit bulls, and increased animal intake at the city's shelter, according to animal services officials.

Antioch is the lone city in Contra Costa County that operates its own animal shelter. Because Antioch's animal control department is short-staffed, enforcement of the rules is complaint-driven, City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland.

"No one's really out looking for these violations; it's really when they start impacting neighbors, public safety and health, like the feeding of feral cats that then attracts rodents and raccoons. That's when things attract the attention of animal services," Nerland said.

More than half of the calls for service handled by Antioch's animal control officers are for dangerous animals, including those that are aggressive or violent, Aguinaga said.

A complete copy of the proposed ordinance is available as part of the City Council's Dec. 10 agenda at www.ci.antioch.ca.us.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

Animal House:
Here are the rules on animals allowed in Antioch's proposed ordinance.
Dogs: 3, more would require permit.
Cats: 5, more would require permit.
Ducks, geese, chickens or other fowl: 10 each; also they must be kept in enclosures 20 feet from any dwelling.
Roosters: 0, having one or more would require permit.
Rabbits: 10, cages and runs must be clean.
Bees: only kept in areas zoned for agriculture or open space, and permit.
Horse, mule, cow, sheep, goat, pig: Unlawful, unless in enclosed area over acre, with permit.
Racing pigeons: Unlimited, if the member of a racing pigeon club obtains a permit.
Livestock: Stabling, pasturing or maintaining horses or bovines is not allowed, unless allowed by zoning ordinance Source: City of Antioch