The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

February 8, 2013

Board keeps new animal rules on hold

By Brian Graves, Staff Writer

Friday, February 8, 2013 — Commissioner Tony Dennis expressed what he and his colleagues heard about the proposed new animal control ordinance in one sentence.

“It looks like we could have an ordinance less than 36 pages,” Dennis said.

His comment came Monday after a public hearing and a third attempt by the county commission to adopt a new ordinance to regulate the control of animals.

Nine people spoke during the hearing after County Health Director Dennis Joyner explained the “tweaks” the health board had made since the last time the document had been presented.

He said the section relating to animal seizure was reworded to ensure owners would be entitled to due process and an appeals process and that any actions would be done in accordance with existing laws.

Joyner also addressed the section on clean shelters, which he said was done to address the issue of overcrowding and potentially prevent puppy mills.

Another section addressed using animals as prizes or being used in public exhibits as part of the section on animal cruelty.

The health board also changed the rules on stray animals, requiring anyone finding one to report it to Animal Control within 72 hours.

“It was worded to require the animals to be surrendered,” Joyner said.

“That’s not the case now.”

He said this could assist owners in finding lost pets and to keep the animals in a secure location.

“If someone wants to house the animal, keep the animal and provide for the animal, certainly that is a benefit for the county,” Joyner said.

“It’s better for the animal to be in an environment like that as opposed to being in the shelter.”

Larry Faulkner, chairman of the health board, said it was an ordinance “we can live with.”

“The ideal ordinance would be very simple — pet owners be responsible for your pets. That’s all they’ve really got to do,” Faulkner said.

“But, we have problems with people looking after their pets. They think the laws are for somebody else and they think they don’t have to mind them.”

He said people had worked hard on the ordinance.

“It is not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good,” he said.

However, all the speakers expressed concerns about the wordings included especially in the areas of shelter, keeping of strays.

There was also a general consensus a committee should be formed that includes citizens involved in animal care and hunting.

It was an idea presented two months ago, but Commissioner Peter Ascuitto, who serves with the health board, said at the time the board “felt like it was a citizen’s committee.”

Ascuitto repeated that Monday night although he voted against Commissioner Lindsay Dunevant’s motion to appoint a subcommittee of himself and Ascuitto to meet with the health board to discuss the ordinance.

“I’d like to pass this ordinance and move forward,” Ascuitto said.

However, Dunevant’s  motion passed 4-1 with the suggestion that once the commissioners meet with the health board, it might add the suggested mix of citizens to further advise and assist in developing the ordinance.