Council revises animal ordinance

Published 9:42 am Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Members of the public gave feedback in regard to revisions of animal and fowl regulations generated much interest during Monday’s meeting of the Albemarle City Council.

A public hearing was held over from July 8 to gather feedback on proposed text amendments to the city’s code of ordinances section on animals and fowl.

Heather Cummings, who lives on Lauras Lane, expressed concerns with proposed limits on the number of rabbits residents are permitted to keep.

“I’m a single mother, and I raise rabbits to feed my family,” she said, noting the proposed limit of four rabbits is too low and that she breeds rabbits in a sterile environment in her basement for family consumption.

“I believe the wording should be changed to state that the limit applies to the number of rabbits kept outside,” Cummings said.

Kevin Robinson, director of planning and development services, said the limit of four rabbits had been in place since 1958, with the purpose to prevent nuisances to other residents.

Michael Lambert, a resident of Royal Avenue in the College Park area, distributed photos to council members showing what he considered to be an unhealthy environment for two horses that occupy a three-fourths acre lot adjacent to his home.

“I feel sorry for the horses,” said Lambert, who reported that in addition to the enclosure being small, it is mostly barren.

“According to information that I have found, one horse needs about two acres, 70 percent of which needs to be grass, 8 to 10 inches tall,” he said.

Lambert expressed concerns about foul odors coming from the horse enclosure, as well as at least six incidents in which the horses have escaped the fenced area and encroached onto lawns in the College Park area as well as blocking West Main Street and Poplin’s Grove Church Road.

Jim Runyon, another College Park resident, warned council members about potential liability should they inadequately address the issue.

“With school (Stanly Community College) coming back into session, you will have increased traffic,” he said. “And the students don’t always follow the 45-mile-per-hour speed limit. Somebody is going to get an unwanted hood ornament, and the city could be held liable.”

Sara Pine of Pee Dee Avenue said proposed changes to the ordinance regarding pigs were appropriate.

Discussion followed, with council members expressing opinions on the proposed amendments.

“Who is going to enforce this?” Councilwoman Shirley Lowder asked. “What is going to happen to those who violate the rules?”

Michael and Robinson remarked that enforcement of such ordinances is “complaint driven,” and that the city does not have sufficient staff to search for violators.

“When we get a complaint, we investigate it,” Robinson said.

In most cases, he said, violators are granted time to bring the violation into compliance.

Following discussion, Council voted to make minor changes in wording to designate a maximum of four rabbits can be kept outside at a residence. Citizens with horses must provide a minimum of two acres per horse, with fencing to adequately contain the animals. The ordinance, with revisions, passed unanimously.

Toby Thorpe is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.