County Commission Approves New Animal Control OrdinanceJun 17th, 2011 | By Lynette | Category: Front Page
A measure that had been discussed at the last meeting, limiting the number or dogs and cats county residents could have without a permit, was approved 5-0 at the June 15 County Commission Meeting. The measure applies mostly to “basic pet owners” and varies according to the amount of land the resident owns: a resident with 1.5 acres or less could have up to 10 dogs or cats; someone with1.5 to 2.5 acres could have up to 20 dogs and cats; someone with 2.5 acres of land or greater could have up to 30 animals without needing a permit. To apply for a permit, the resident would have to show the county that he or she had the means and ability to care for the animals, pay the permit fee and receive a certificate.
“This ordinance does not prohibit people from having excess animals,” said County Attorney Tom Reeves. “It just says they have to have a permit (if they go above that number).”
Prior to the measure being passed, there was no regulation on the number of dogs and cats Madison County residents could have on their property; the ordinance exempts veterinarians and veterinary clinics/hospitals, county animal shelters, the Humane Society, private stables and hobby breeders who do not exceed two litters of animals, or 19 animals older than eight months per household per year.
The measure drew considerable response from members of the public. Fran Charlson of Goliath and Bebe’s World, a 45-acre no-kill animal shelter located on Alaskan Way, took the floor to ask what prompted this ordinance after all this time. “We already have the animals and we adhere to all provisions necessary for their care. Has someone complained? What about grandfathering?” Charlson also questioned why puppy mills were not specifically mentioned as needing a permit, what would happen if an organization had a permit and didn’t pass an inspection.
The board discussed a fee of $100, to be paid annually, and said that a grace period of six months from the date of the ordinance being passed, or Dec. 15, should give existing facilities and county residents with large numbers of dogs and cats time to get in compliance with the requirements. If a permitted facility was found in violation afterward, the county could revoke the license.
Marianne Green said she was pleased with the cooperative living system that county resident had for dogs, but free-roaming cats were another matter. Currently the animal control office handles nuisance cats by delivering traps to the affected property to catch them.
Tommy Greene took the floor to protest the new ordinance as unnecessary intrusion of government into the lives of private citizens. Describing himself as an animal lover, Greene said that he had several animals on his property and declared, “we talk about government in Washington, and I’ve always said that no man’s freedom was safe as long as the legislature was in session, but it’s the local level…local folks are bringing in government on top of us. Our main freedoms are being encroached upon at the county and city level. We’ve already got animal control and we’ve got the police. Why bring in more?”
Counties surrounding Madison have varying levels of animal ownership regulation for their county residents. In more densely populated Lowndes County (Valdosta), people can own up to five animals, dogs and cats, and must keep their animals on their property. It is primarily “a nuisance-driven issue,” said Linda Patelski, director of animal control, who said that the county has a lot of people who own hunting dogs. Six or more animals constitute a “kennel” and the owner must be licensed as such and meet all kenneling standards. The fee for a kennel permit is $400, and the permitting is done through the Department of Agriculture. The ordinance has never been challenged, said Patelski, because many county residents live on long, narrow lots and cooperate to keep their dogs – and cats – from becoming a nuisance. Free-roaming cats are seldom a problem, she added, because with so many dogs and coyotes around, they would not survive long.
Brooks County (Quitman) currently does not have any permitting requirements for its county residents, but is in the process of trying to draw one up; the process has been ongoing for a couple of months, and is primarily driven by noise and vicious dog complaints.
Jefferson County has no limit on animal ownership by county residents. Neither does Lafayette County or Hamilton County. Suwannee County, with the majority of its county acreage zoned as agricultural, also has no regulation on ownership, but does have ordinances concerning nuisance, at-large or dangerous animals, especially those believed to be rabid.
Taylor County’s Director of Animal Control Carrie Tucker says that although she would like to see a similar regulation on the books in Taylor County, “right now you can have as many as you can take care of, as long as they’re being taken care of.”
“We’re just being stifled,” said Tommy Greene after the Madison County Commissioners Meeting. “Every time I go to a board meeting, they’re talking about some new rule or regulation. We’re losing our freedoms one board meeting at a time.” Referencing his earlier remark to the board, he added, “no man’s freedom is safe as long at the County Commission is in session.”