More words; no action
GATESVILLE – The debate continues on how to strengthen the language of Gates County’s Animal Control Ordinance in an effort to offer a better quality of life to our four-legged companions.
However, seven months after that discussion took a serious turn in the wake of a dog’s death in July on Rountree Lane, the county’s Board of Commissioners are still weighing numerous options on how to properly address any changes to the existing ordinance.
That discussion continued here at last week’s scheduled meeting of the commissioners where several individuals implored the board to take action.
Carol Whitt addressed several issues, to include changing the ordinance to read: no dog should be allowed to be tethered, tied or chained up outside for no more than 30 minutes if the weather is below 32 degrees or above 90 degrees.
“This came about during all the snow as I was out delivering dog houses, hay for those houses and delivering dog food,” she said. “I was bombarded from citizens about animals in distress (in the cold weather)….animals in plastic houses, wooden houses with no insulation. It does not say in our ordinance that these houses need to be insulated, but it needs to be in the case of cold weather.”
Whitt also proposed a change to the existing ordinance regarding a person housing a stray animal. She shared a story about a woman who picked up a stray dog, one that was blind, fur was matted, and covered in fleas.
“She knocked on doors near where she found the dog and no one knew where that dog belonged,” Whitt stated. “She took him home and called (Gates County) Animal Control, but they were not on duty.”
Whitt said the woman boarded the dog overnight, bathed it, got rid of the fleas and fed it.
“When she called Animal Control the next morning, she was told (by the dispatcher) that the dog now belonged to her,” Whitt remarked. “That’s not right.”
She cited the existing ordinance, which stated a person could board a stray for 10 days upon first reporting it to Animal Control.
“When she called the dispatcher back to make them aware of what the ordinance said, she was told to put the animal back on the street,” Whitt said. “We can’t have that. We can’t send the message to Good Samaritans to stop serving the needs of our neglected animals.”
The dog’s owner was eventually located.
Whitt also addressed inhumane conditions that animals are subjected to in the county.
“I got a call about a dog that was chained 24/7 out in a cold rain,” she said. “This dog was in three inches of mud and water. That’s inhumane and detrimental to its health. We need to look at these and the way our other ordinances are now written and this time get it right (by revisions).”
Cathie Bandalos said she has witnessed numerous dogs in the county, “living their lives at the end of a chain.”
“It’s sad that people will call me rather than our Animal Control officer,” Bandalos remarked. “This is not my job; it’s Animal Control’s job, but the difference between me and him is I have compassion. I can’t turn my head the other way. We have dogs suffering in our county.”
She noted that nearby counties and towns have amended their animal welfare ordinances in an effort to be “progressively humane.”
“My question to you is why does Gates County choose to remain in the dark ages,” Bandalos inquired. “We need change; we need compassion for our animals.”
Randy Stallings of Sunbury addressed another issue…..noise. He said his neighborhood recently welcomed a newcomer, one who bought 11 dogs. While those dogs are kept in clean kennels, they bark day and night.
“They are so loud that they wake me and my children up in the middle of the night,” Stallings alleged. “I brought this to the attention of our county manager and Animal Control Officer. I had a brief interaction with that officer on Dec. 21 and he shared there were no findings as a result of his investigation, even though I have multiple (audio) recordings of these 11 dogs barking non-stop.
“This is unacceptable; I moved to the country for the peace and quiet,” he added.
Stallings was advised by Commissioner Henry Jordan about the county’s nuisance (noise) ordinance and encouraged him to take that issue up with the Sheriff’s Office.
Later in the meeting, during an old business discussion about the Animal Control Ordinance, Commissioner Jack Owens asked a representative of PETA in attendance at the meeting for her opinions on the major issues the board needs to address, other than tethering.
She answered they should include space issues (minimum size where a dog/cat resides outdoors), and standards of care.
“We had a public hearing in November, and after that we felt there was more work that needed to be done (on the ordinance),” said Commission Chair Linda Hofler. “Because of the rules and regulations we have to follow, there are several options before us. If we make text amendments (to the ordinance) they have to be advertised and another public hearing needs to be held. I think we all feel there are changes that need to be made. Or we can come to an agreement today on the text amendments.”
Jordan said he felt another work session was in order prior to the board coming to an agreement on the text amendments and then schedule a public hearing.
Among the amendments, Hofler said she would like to see wording added that would be illegal to allow an unattended dog to be tethered outdoors. Further, dogs may be unattended if kept in a secured area. She added that this addition to the ordinance does not pertain to hunting dogs when they are being used for lawful hunting purposes.
“I feel there are two points that we seem stuck on,” said Owens, “one being tethering. We need to do the right thing by these animals. They depend on their owners to do the right thing. We seem to have a very small number of violators that are causing all this discussion.
“Any changes we make to the ordinance, they need to be right,” Owens continued. “It’s the law, it gives the Animal Control Ordinance the authority to do something. He needs to pull out his book and write a citation based on the wording of the ordinance. If we are going to change the culture; change the habits, then we need enforcement and there has to be consequences for the actions of those who violate the ordinance.”
Owens also agreed to have a workshop.
The Board agreed to hold a workshop, to review proposed amendments to the ordinance, at 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 19 in the main courtroom of the Gates County Courthouse. That workshop is open to the public.