Changes to Iredell County Animal Services ordinance raise questions

Changes to Iredell County Animal Services ordinance raise questions

As the Iredell County Board of Commissioners is set to vote on proposed changes to the animal control ordinance, there is support for the updates to the rules but also questions from some people if more should be done.

Kristian Hernandez of Iredell County Animal Services said the goal is to strike a balance between the concerns of pet owners, animal rescue organizations and the public at large.

“Our goal is to stay in the middle, trying to do what’s best for the community and animals,” Hernandez said. “The public is ultimately who will go for it or not and will weigh in before the vote. Whether it passes or not, we’re open to feedback.”

Hernandez said the proposed changes are to keep the department up with state standards, but the changes aren’t meant to be drastic.

Some of the feedback is coming from Amy Marie Miller, who said believes the changes are a push in the right direction but still hopes to see more details about the rules for the sake of the animals and people around them.

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Among the changes she does believe could use some tweaking are those to the dangerous dogs ordinance, particularly the part defining a potentially dangerous dog.

Some of the changes proposed help better spell out that what happens if a dog bites someone outside of the owner’s property.

However, Miller worries that the rule that a dog that does not have any reported violations for 36 consecutive months can have the label of potentially dangerous dog removed with a request from the owner. She said that the dogs being kept on the owner’s property for that period of time can all but ensure that the dog will have the label of potentially dangerous dog removed, but without any other way of proving the dog’s behavior has changed.

Miller suggests a more stringent evaluation by Animal Services or if an underlying medical issue with the dog that caused it to be agitated is resolved, a note from a veterinarian to specify the issue has been addressed. She also said if a dog is given the potentially dangerous dog label, the owners should be required to get liability insurance as part of the process.

“To me, that’s a fair way to do it because if this dog is potentially dangerous, it acted in a manner to prove that. Has something been done have changed that or the dog’s still potentially dangerous? But if you can show that something’s changed, I agree with having the ability to remove it,” Miller said.

Other proposals

Some of the other proposed changes are:

Shelter: Shelters for animals are any structure with standard building materials (wood, concrete or similar materials) with bedding, blankets, cedar chips or their equivalent provided for the animal. Areas underneath outside steps, decks and stoops, inside vehicles, underneath vehicles, buildings without proper ventilation, and metal barrels won’t constitute adequate shelter.

Similarly, no household pet shall be tethered and left unattended without adequate shelter for longer than 30 minutes at a time, according to the proposed changes.

Community cats: One of the other notable changes is the community cat program, for cats that are abandoned, stray or lost or are feral and cared for by a community cat caregiver. The community caregiver of the cat colony must provide care, including food, shelter or medical care. While the caregiver isn’t considered the owner or keeper of the animal, there are responsibilities that come with it.

Outside of feeding and watering, the biggest might be trap-neuter-return rules, meant to prevent the cat population from exploding. Hernandez said the program, as well as the community cat program, were modeled on other municipalities’ programs.

Miller said she also had some concerns with this and hopes for more notifications to the nearby residents of the presence of a community cat.

Up for vote

Ultimately though, she said despite often speaking out on animal issues at public meetings, she wanted to support Hernandez but hopes that the county rejects the proposed changes as written. Miller said that with everything on both Animal Services and the commissioners’ figurative plates, a committee of concerned residents and stakeholders can help hammer out some of the finer details.

“With the nature of dogs, it’s something personal, and with that in mind, they might need a little bit of a finer look at this.”

Follow Ben Gibson on Facebook and Twitter at @BenGibsonSRL

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Changes to Iredell County Animal Services ordinance raise questions

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