Animal welfare on agenda

Published 12:20 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2017

GATESVILLE – The death of a dog near here last month has prompted concerned citizens of Gates County to address the county commissioners regarding current animal welfare ordinances.

Carol Whitt, a Gates County resident and advocate for the better treatment of animals, said there is a need for change of those ordinances as well as consistent enforcement.

“The ordinances in place, obviously, have not in the past, nor will they in the future, prevent suffering and death of Gates County’s dogs,” Whitt told this newspaper in advance of the commissioners’ next scheduled meeting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 2 in the main courtroom of the Gates County Courthouse.

Whitt said the current ordinances provide absolutely no useful guidelines on appropriate shelter to ensure that dogs are protected from the elements. She added that as evidenced by photographs of dogs and their shelters on some properties, upended or overturned plastic carriers, meant to carry a dog to the vet or for short trips, are considered adequate shelter.

“Dog houses without floors, sitting in the mud with no protection from blowing wind, rain, and snow, are considered adequate shelter,” Whitt stated. “Kennels or cages, with no roofs, sides, or floors, are considered adequate shelters. Dog houses of any type do not provide relief from heat; in fact they make it worse.”

Whitt cited current county ordinance 316.1 that requires dogs have access to shade.

Regarding provisions for food and water, current ordinances only require that owners check/supply food and water at 24 hour intervals. Food left in the heat, particularly in the sun, is likely to spoil or become bug infested and dogs must have access to fresh food at no more than 12 hour intervals to ensure proper nutrition.

She said that water above 90 degrees is considered too hot to cool off a hot, thirsty dog, thus requiring frequent water changes. The Human Society of the United States, she said, recommends adding ice cubes when possible during extreme temperatures and high humidity.

“From their recommendations alone, it’s easy to see why our current ordinance is inadequate,” Whitt noted. “In the winter, obviously, frozen water is undrinkable and needs to be checked/replaced at more frequent intervals. Water that is consumed by an animal in the first few minutes/hours of being supplied, under the current ordinances, does not have to be refilled for another 24 hours. Owners must be held accountable for providing adequate food and water for their pets.”

Whitt added that unattended tethering is another long standing problem in Gates County, one that is being addressed more and more frequently in more progressive and more dog friendly locations across the country and other counties.

“Tethering brings up an entire laundry list of problems, including dogs becoming tangled and unable to reach food, water, and shelter, becoming tangled and choking to death, physical pain and health problems associated with heavy chains, the inability to run from danger, (snakes and other aggressive wild animals,) and the associated aggression that is a common side effect of long term tethering.  Chained dogs are not pets or family members,” she said.

Whitt continued by saying, “Changes to ordinances are much needed to prevent unnecessary suffering and death, such as in the recent horrific death of the dog on Roundtree Road. More dogs are at risk of the same fate. Additionally, ordinances need to be written in such a way that guesswork or judgment calls are removed from officials who need to provide consistent enforcement.”

She said advocates of Gates County are determined to steer the county towards progressive, ethical, and humane treatment of animals.

“Those of us who care will continue to advocate for change until all of our dogs are safe from abuse and neglect. It’s difficult to understand why our county officials have shown complacency for so long with so much suffering around them,” Whitt noted.

“And so, our voices alone may not be enough to sway the current board members, and we will need to rely on those residents of the county who wish to join us in our push towards progress. Please come and join us to show your support and make your voices heard at the August board meeting. The very lives of the dogs of our county depend on it,” she concluded.

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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