BY KARISSA MILLER
Iredell County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve several proposed changes to the Animal Control Ordinance that governs the treatment of pets and stray animals in the county.
Among the highlights of the revised ordinance:
Pet owners who tether an animal outside a residence must adhere to strict new rules.
“No person shall tether a sick, injured and/or diseased household pet, nor any pet less than six months of age, unless a responsible adult remains outdoors in the immediate area and within the sight of the animal at all times.”
The revised ordinance prohibits unattended tethering without adequate shelter for longer than 30 minutes at any given time.
The new ordinance defines what constitutes “adequate shelter” for pets.
According to Section 3-1, ”it shall include four walls, a roof and a solid floor constructed of wood, concrete, or other similar building materials, with an opening entrance large enough to allow access to the animal.”
During cold days and nights, the structure shall be provided with a sufficient quantity of suitable bedding material consisting of hay, straw, cedar shaving, blankets, or an equivalent.
The ordinance also defines what does not constitute adequate shelter, including:
• Underneath outside steps;
• Decks and stoops;
• Inside vehicles;
• Underneath vehicles;
• Buildings without proper ventilation; and
• Metal barrels
Potentially Dangerous Dogs
Another change defines what constitutes a potentially dangerous dog. That is “any dog which, when unprovoked and not on the Owner’s real property, on two separate occasions within the prior 24-month period, engages in any behavior that requires a defensive action by any person to prevent bodily injury.”
The potentially dangerous dog label can be removed after the dog does not have any reported violations for 36 consecutive months.
Proposed changes also add a community cat’s initiative subchapter for Trap-Neuter-Return programs (TNR).
“This would allow community members, nonprofits and rescues to trap, neuter and release within the community without fear of enforcement,” said Animal Services Director Kristian Hernandez.
Hernandez explained that there are too many community cats and feral cats in the county. A TNR program is an effort to keep their populations from growing rapidly.
Before the vote, the board conducted a public hearing about the revisions. There was some pushback about some of the changes.
Amy Miller asked the board to consider collecting more public feedback before voting on the changes to the ordinance.
“The citizens of the county can be trusted to make suggestions that make a difference,” Miller said.
While many rescue groups were aware of the proposed changes, many residents were not aware, according to Miller. She asked the board to reject the changes so that they “can be vetted further.”
Michael Ochs described a situation in which a dog has been roaming onto his stepdaughter’s property and uses their yard as a bathroom.
Ochs wants to know why Animal Control can’t do something about it.
He also expressed concerns about the proposed requirements for dog owners.
“It looks like they are setting up a housing code for dogs,” he said.
Ochs said he had a husky for 15 years and rarely did it sleep in a dog house. He said that he built a good one for the dog, but it didn’t like it.
“Making a guy build $150 dog house seems kind of expensive to me,” Ochs said. “You can’t use barrels anymore. I know a lot of people that use them. There’s nothing wrong with them if they’re used right.”
Fredericka Savage, an Animal Services volunteer who has also worked with rescue animals, spoke in support of the TNR program. She praised Hernandez’s courage and leadership and asked the public to support their recommendations.
“So many people live in another century when it comes to animal control,” Savage said.
The last speaker, Scott Ebright, said he has had to call Animal Services more than half a dozen times for dog fighting near his home.
He also described the persistent barking of a dog that was continually tethered. While Animal Services came out to address the problem, a few days later he heard the same dog, which had been moved further away.
Ebright said he wondered if there is enough funding in the Animal Services budget to address animal problems in the county.
“We will take into consideration how we can widen the circle of input and ideas,” said Chairman James Mallory. “I’m sure that the Animal Services folks are interested in humane solutions to problems. There is not one size fits all and we need to figure that out.”