An Animal Control Ordinance expected to put more teeth in the enforcement of animal-related violations is officially in effect following a second reading of the comprehensive document at Monday’s county board meeting.
While the ordinance was adopted in a 4-0 Board of Commissioners vote last month, it counted as a first reading because not all board members were present for the vote. County officials said the vote would simply be taken again when Commissioner Jarvis McLamb, absent from those proceedings, was present and a second reading and another official vote cast.
That happened with little fanfare Monday, with a full board unanimously OK’ing the ordinance as part of the consent agenda, and adding that the ordinance would be effective immediately.
Discussed for more than a year, the ordinance was drafted by a committee comprised of local Health Department, Sheriff’s Office, Animal Shelter and Board of Health representatives formed at the beginning of 2013. The ordinance is expected to provide stronger legal authority for Animal Control deputies, as well as local health officials, in addressing animal-related matters with which they are regularly confronted.
“The purpose of the animal control ordinance is to outline the roles and responsibilities of the Sheriff’s Department, the Animal Shelter and the Health Department,” health director Wanda Robinson said previously. “It also promotes the public health, safety and welfare of people in our community.”
Dangerous dogs, nuisance and injured animals, cruelty and abandonment, bites to humans and other animals, strays, animal fighting, the keeping of wild and exotic animals, as well as rules concerning rabies vaccination for dogs, cats, ferrets or other pets are among those topics addressed in detail as part of the document.
The ordinance establishes the Board of Health as the Dangerous Dog Appeal Board, which encompasses the declaration of dangerous dogs, the appeal process and the security and restraint requirement for those deemed dangerous, which would be required to be micro-chipped.
“The ordinance provides regulations to protect your health and safety from rabies and other animal-borne illness, from dangerous and biting animals, to protect your property and to promote the proper care and treatment of animals,” Sheriff’s Cpl. Jessica Kittrell, one of the county’s three Animal Control officers, has noted.
The board held several work sessions on the ordinance and the team reviewed and revised it — a section of privilege license tax was eliminated completely — in response to the board’s suggestions.
There is a leash law as part of the ordinance, but it is actually called a “running at large law.” Owners will be required to keep animals on their property by any means necessary or under their control while off the property. The “running at large law” does not apply to hunting dogs that are in a lawful hunt, she noted.
An animal could be picked up and, after 72 hours, euthanized, per the ordinance. If the owner is not known and the animal is not reclaimed within that three-day period, the animal would be either considered for adoption or euthanized, making it particularly important for pets to wear an ID and rabies tag, Kittrell pointed out.
Under the ordinance, fines will be assessed for failure to properly confine and tether animals, failure to provide treatment for diseased, injured or sick animals; and failure to provide food, water and/or shelter to an animal. Additionally, those who fail to provide proof of vaccination tag, fail to spay or neuter an adopted animal and engage in the inhumane treatment or cruelty of animals are also subject to punishment under the ordinance.
The civil penalty for a first violation is $50. For subsequent violations within 12 months, the penalty will be $100 for a second violation and $200 for a third, and any subsequent, offense.
Under the proposed ordinance, the county has the authority to waive fines for first time offenders if it can be demonstrated that the owner of the animal has come into compliance with the ordinance and the violation did not threaten the health, safety or welfare of the general public.
To see the entire ordinance, visit the Sampson County website at www.sampsonnc.com.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.