Control requested over exotic animals

Published 8:40 am Tuesday, December 17, 2013

GATESVILLE – The Gates County Board of Commissioners took no immediate action on a proposal here last week to add three new or revised elements to a county ordinance dealing with animal control.

The most interesting of the recommendations, as presented by Doug Bailey, Chairman of the Gates County Animal Control Advisory Committee, dealt with exotic animals.

“Every county within a 50-mile radius of Gates County has an ordinance dealing with exotic animals,” Bailey noted. “We’re the only one without it.”

The recommendation was that it will be unlawful for any person or groups of persons to own, harbor, sell or possess any exotic animals – defined as any mammal, bird, reptile or fish that poses a potential danger to humans. Examples would be large poisonous snakes, tigers, lions, crocodiles, coyotes, and piranha fish. Small birds, such as parrots, canaries, and cock-a-toos; livestock; and domestic dogs and cats are exempted.

Bailey said that any exotic animal, as previously described, that is owned, harbored or possessed prior to the implementation of the proposed ordinance that were purchased pursuant to having a North Carolina Wildlife Commission or US Fish and Wildlife permit, as a condition of ownership, shall be allowed.

“What this means is if you already have one of these types of animals and when you purchased this animal you got one of these two permits, you are grandfathered in; you do not have to get rid of these animals,” Bailey stated.

However, Bailey said as a special condition for “grandfathered” owners, these animals need to be registered with the Gates County Sheriff’s Office within 30 days of the ordinance taking effect.

“The reason for this is a recommendation from the Sheriff’s Office,” Bailey said. “When they answer a call at someone’s home – whether that’s a deputy, a firefighter or an EMT – they should know if there’s an animal in that house that could potentially be dangerous to them.

“We do not want to place a hardship on those who already own exotic animals; we just want them to register those animals in order to protect our emergency responders,” he added.

Commissioner Jack Owens asked Bailey if there was a general State Statute dealing with exotic animals. Bailey said there was, but it wasn’t very clear in definition.

“It’s very vague; it doesn’t even described what an exotic animal is,” Bailey said.

Going back over a previous recommendation made in July, the code section in County Ordinance describes an animal owner as one that has an animal under their control/care for 30 days. Bailey said the board wanted to change that to 72 hours, keeping it in line with state law.

“Various counties in our area that have an Animal Control Ordinance are similar with the state law, having 72 hours as the threshold that determines if a person has an animal under their control,” Bailey stated.

Bailey also brought up another possible change in a recommendation made last month by the Animal Control Advisory Committee. This change was linked to the size of primary enclosures of animals. He said there is a North Carolina Statute, in effect since 1984, on the books that Gates County should follow. He did note that under North Carolina law this statute does not apply to commercial animal breeders or to those who keep dogs for hunting.

That statute reads that any dog shall be provided a minimum square footage of floor space equal to the mathematical square of the sum of the length of the dog in inches. In layman’s terms, Bailey said that formula would be to take the length of the dog from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail and add six inches.

“Let’s say that comes out to 30 inches,” Bailey explained. “You square that (multiply it by itself), meaning you now have 900 square inches. You divide that by 144 to get square feet. So we’re talking about eight and one-half square feet of space dedicated to the 30-inch dog we used here as an example. Naturally, the larger the dog the larger the space, the larger the size of the cage. Or if there are two dogs, you would need double the space.”

Bailey asked for the commissioners to take all three recommendations under advisement and add them to the existing Animal Control Ordinance.

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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