Committee suggests changes

Published 9:34 am Thursday, August 29, 2013

GATESVILLE – Ask, and you shall receive.

In May, the Gates County Board of Commissioners appointed an Ad Hoc Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. The scope of the committee is to identify animal welfare needs and recommend courses of action to improve the condition of animal welfare, generally, and specifically address animal adoption and stewardship of sheltered animals, animal cruelty (to include tethering), and to address consistency in the county’s existing Animal Ordinance.

Three months following its formation, that committee has offered a list of recommendations to improve the existing ordinance.

At their August meeting, the commissioners heard from Doug Bailey, Chairman of the Gates County Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. He addressed some concerns raised during a previous meeting of the county commissioners.

“There were some things to come up at our last meeting that there was some specific things the committee was asked to do,” said Commission Chairman Henry Jordan. “As a board, we reiterated the fact that the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was to bring back recommendations to the county and not necessarily take action on issues within the county.”

“For the record, let me make it clear that this committee is an ad hoc committee, assigned the duty to make recommendations to the board of commissioners for modifications or changes to the Animal Control Ordinance that is in effect now,” Bailey stressed. “It is not our responsibility to do anything other than make recommendations to the board of commissioners. That board makes the changes, or not, as they see fit.”

With their direction clear, Bailey stated that about a month ago a list of seven recommendations was given by the committee to the commissioners.

“These are for your review,” Bailey said. “Most of them are recommendations to change some wording in the current ordinance.”

Included in the committee’s recommendation were:

Changing the words “domestic animals” kept as pets to “any animal” kept as pets;

Providing, at no cost, six hours of training for the county’s two Animal Cruelty Investigators;

Amend Section 201.11 (Definition of an animal owner) to read – “any animal, including strays, feral cats or dogs, kept on their property and provided sustenance for 30 days or more”;

Provide fines and penalties in line with State of North Carolina Statutes;

Not allowing private citizens to perform altering operations on animals that would normally be done by a qualified caregiver such as a licensed vet. This includes spay/neuter, ear cropping, and rabies shots (this does not include livestock);

Provide assistance to impounded large animals through the Humane Society of the United States; and

Provide for a petition of Forfeiture to allow the County to recoup expenses from the owner incurred when animals are seized because of cruelty.

An eighth recommendation dealt with Section 316.3 of the ordinance – standards for chaining or tethering a dog, which reads – “No animal may be chained outdoors unattended without a chain or cable designed and placed to prevent choking or strangulation. Such chain or cable or any restraining device shall not be less than 10 feet in length with the area free of obstacles so the animal may have access to food, water and shelter. A properly fitted collar is required for all tethering.”

Bailey said the committee in regards to that particular section of the ordinance urges the commissioners to consider either making phone calls or mailings to county citizens in order to make them fully aware of the chaining/tethering requirements.

“Everyone needs to be made aware of this part of the ordinance and this part needs to be enforced,” Bailey said. “Our feeling as a committee is that this standard is not being done.”

Bailey said there was also discussion at previous meetings on whether the County Sheriff’s Office was enforcing the laws within the Animal Ordinance. He said as of Aug. 7, the county has issued four citations in 2013. They have asked the state to issue three citations.

Later in the meeting, Sheriff Ed Webb said his officers have issued numerous verbal warnings regarding Animal Ordinance violations. In the majority of those cases, the verbal warning was heeded and no further action was needed.

“This Ad Hoc Committee has solicited information and input from all sectors of the county,” Bailey said. “We have people on the committee who are animal rights advocates; individuals who are with animal rescue groups; some who operate animal shelters; a gentleman who is a hunter….so we have very good cross section of the community.”

Meetings of the Gates County Animal Welfare Advisory Committee are open to the public.

“Everyone is welcomed to come and listen,” Bailey said.  The Gates County Board of Commissioners approved the current animal ordinance in February of 2009. Even that came with much public debate and several instances of re-wording the document.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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