New Richmond County pet ordinances on the way

Monday, August 19, 2014


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A fiesty meeting, in the end, proved productive. Monday Augusta's Animal Control Advisory Board called an emergency meeting to discuss some controversial changes to an ordinance package commissioners were about to vote on.

A day before the vote, they realized what was listed as the new rules wasn't what they had agreed on, so they gathered to make changes once again.

The Animal Control Board's ordinance package to revise 35 year old ordinances has been two and a half years in the making, but maybe all they needed was two and a half hours to really hash it out.

The emergency meeting was a collaboration between the advisory board, Animal Services staff, and the city's law department. Even a couple commissioners popped in for a little while. After a couple hours around a table, amazingly, everyone agreed.

"Definitely we did get more done tonight in two hours and fifteen minutes than in the last four months," the Animal Control Advisory Board Chairman B.B. Langham said.

The subject of the meeting was a 27-page ordinance package that was supposed to go in front of commissioners tomorrow. Some members were concerned new revisions weren't what they had approved as final more than a year ago at their meeting in March 2013.

"I would not support the ordinance any longer if anything was changed from what we had passed previously," Langham said.

Animal Services Director Sharon Broady took responsibility for some of the changes made to the previously approved document, but admitted everyone was happy with the thrice revised ordinance package at the end of Monday's meeting. While suspicions were hot going into the meeting, Langham admitted he didn't think any of the changes were made with ill will.

"I don't think anybody was trying to sabotage the ordinance package and change it," he said.

The biggest concerns were changes to tethering rules, whether to make cats wear collars, and spay and neuter laws.

"As far as cats with collars, that was a license to kill in my book, and I couldn't live with that," advisory board Secretary Lorna Barrett said.

"I've never called an emergency meeting in my three years, so this must have been a pretty big deal," Langham emphasized.

So, as Monday's meeting continued, 35 year old ordinances became new again. They tackled each concern one by one and finally came up with a solution that made everybody happy.

"I think it ended great!" Barrett told News 12 after the meeting.

Instead of banning tethering altogether, the board voted to allow it under certain conditions. It bans stationary tethering, where dogs would have to urinate and defecate where they sit, lie, and eat. Tethering a dog must happen in an enclosed area while the dog is attended. It is limited to a one hour period for every 24 hours, not including the quiet hours from 11p.m. to 7 a.m. The new ordinance would allow a trolley tether which would give a dog space to move around, but it could require specific measurements to be compliant. The advisory board voted unanimously to make this the new ordinance. They decided not to ban it altogether, saying it would be too much to enforce.

Another unanimous vote came when the board decided to not require cats to wear collars. The ordinance that would have been given to commissioners Tuesday would have required both dogs and cats to wear collars. At Monday's meeting, cats were removed from that ordinance, citing dangers to the animal since they often climb and could become caught.

The advisory board voted 9-1 to make it mandatory to spay and neuter your pets. If approved by commissioners, the new ordinance would give pet owners a year to comply. Another majority vote from the advisory board created the necessity for a licensing fee. They agreed if you move into the county and your pets are spayed and neutered, you don't have to pay a licensing fee. However, if you move into town and your pets are unaltered, you must pay a yearly licensing fee. They voted to let Animal Services and Augusta's legal department decide how much that amount would be.

"I am really excited to have mandatory spay and neuter with a few exceptions. I'm really happy this ordinance package is such a package that we can promote it to the community," Barrett said.

The board also recommended what was legal in how to safely transport your dog. They voted unanimously to ban pet owners from tethering a dog in any open aired vehicle such as an open air jeep or the back of a pickup truck. The board reminded it's already illegal to let your dog ride in the back of a pickup truck unattached to anything.

All of this was done realizing you can't legislate intelligence, but the advisory board said it was all about helping keep Richmond County pets safe.

"You can't make pet owners be responsible pet owners. You can make them pay a price for when they're not," Langham said.

This ordinance package still has to be approved by commissioners. They were supposed to vote on it Tuesday, but after all of Monday night's revisions, that will be pushed back a couple weeks.

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