Gates Co. leaders to address Animal Control Ordinance

Published 11:14 am Tuesday, September 19, 2017

GATESVILLE – They’ve heard the outpouring of ideas to make a better life for domestic pets in Gates County and it now appears the county’s leadership is willing to take action.

At their Sept. 6 meeting, the Gates County Board of Commissioners agreed to schedule a work session on Oct. 4 to review the county’s Animal Control Ordinance. That session will begin immediately following the board’s regularly scheduled, 10 a.m. meeting that day in the main courtroom of the county courthouse.

As noted by the Commissioners at its Sept. 6 meeting, the Oct. 4 work session is open to the public. However, public comment will not be allowed.

All this comes on the heels of an Aug. 2 meeting by the Commissioners where numerous individuals spoke in favor of adding new regulations or tweaking the wording of the county’s existing Animal Control Ordinance. That came after an incident in July where a pit bull, reportedly chained to its doghouse, died in the backyard of a residence on Roundtree Lane near Gatesville. That dog’s death sparked outrage on social media across the United States and prompted questions about what was termed as “loopholes” in the county’s ordinance.

On Aug. 2, local citizens and one official from PETA pleaded with the Commissioners to strengthen a county ordinance dealing with animal welfare. More specifically, the group wants to end the use of allowing dog owners to use a tethered chain on their animals as well as enact more stringent regulations dealing with providing proper shelter, water and food to animals.

The issue was addressed by the Commissioners last week.

“At our last meeting there were a number of speakers who came forward concerning an incident that occurred in our county and we were also presented a petition (one calling for the ordinance changes),” stated Linda Hofler, Chair of the Commissioners.

“We read the petition and we’ve gone back over the ordinance,” Hofler continued. “We’ve done some research and at this time I would like to propose we hold a work session to go over this ordinance. I think there are areas (in the ordinance) that we need to update, or revise, or tweak. We need to make sure that ordinance is doing what it’s supposed to do. Certainly we do not want any animal abused or neglected.”

Hofler put a motion on the floor to hold the work session. Commissioner Ray Freeman offered a second.

“If we do this, we need to make sure it’s well advertised,” said Jack Owens, Commission Vice Chairman.

Hofler further suggested having animal experts offer their opinions on the matter.

“We need to get the ball rolling on this and get this ordinance finalized,” Hofler said.

Her motion to hold a special work session was approved without objection.

Following the meeting, two animal welfare advocates thanked the Commissioners for their willingness to address the ordinance.

“Thank you for understanding the importance of animal welfare,” said Carol Whitt. “I want to ask you, the Commissioners, to please contact folks outside the community that are very animal savvy.”

Whitt suggested seeking advice from the Dogs Deserve Better group, an organization based in Smithfield, VA that on its website lists part of its mission as “to provide a better life for abused, neglected and abandoned canines; especially those which are chained or penned without human companionship.” She also suggested the Pitt County Humane Society as a source of good information.

“There are also two amazing Animal Control officers in Hertford County that you can reach out to,” Whitt added. “They can give you some great information.

“Again, I thank this board for sharing the passion. I hope we can moved forward and become a very humane county when it comes to our pets,” she said.

Whitt said a strong ordinance will hold individuals responsible for their irresponsible, cruel, neglectful actions and not giving them any loopholes in the ordinance.

Tracey Lubawski, Facilities Manager for Dogs Deserve Better, said she felt a need to speak about the county’s Animal Control Ordinance.

“We are a national rescue for chained and penned dogs and I personally work with Animal Control officers throughout the United States each day,” Lubawski stated. “I’ve learned that a chained dog is three times more likely to bite a person. I’ve also learned that the pit bull breed is a money-maker for its owner.”

She said it all boils down to how a dog is treated.

“Are they treated as lawn ornaments that you don’t want inside your home, or are they treated as a family pet,” she asked. “Dogs just want to be loved. Anything we can do to help, please just ask.”

Hofler said any action taken to change the ordinance, after the work session, will require a public hearing.

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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