County to consider license fees, regulations on animals

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

September 30, 2013

A draft Animal Control ordinance up for the Sampson County Board of Commissioners’ consideration addresses the licensing of dogs and cats, and privilege licenses that will be required to own them — it is expected to be discussed by the board in the near future.

During a commissioners’ planning session earlier this year, the issue of a “dangerous dog” ordinance was discussed for the county. At the recommendation of the board, a committee was formed for the purpose of developing an animal control ordinance. Such a draft ordinance was developed by the committee and submitted by county manager Ed Causey during a recent meeting for review and consideration by the board.

While the ordinance does detail how dangerous dog cases should be handled, it also addresses rabies control and animal bites; as well as the licensing of dogs and cats and animal taxes. A comprehensive 36-page document, it addresses everything related to the handling of animals, including ownership and adoption; dealing with nuisance, diseased, injured or dead animals; inhumane or cruel treatment of animals; keeping of wild and exotic animals; animal fighting; impoundment; spaying and neutering; and licensing, among many other regulations.

Animal shelter director Alan Canady, earlier this year, talked about the importance of having an updated Animal Control ordinance, which would be “in the public interest and to promote the public health, safety and welfare,” as well as providing a small boost to the shelter’s initiatives, which have included needed facility improvements and staffing.

According to the draft ordinance, all dogs and cats will require proper rabies vaccinations and subsequent county privilege licenses. A specific privilege license fee is not contained in the draft, and would be set at the discretion of the county board.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to own, possess or have under his control any dogs or cats, or any combination thereof, over four months of age, without obtaining an annual privilege license for each such animal from the Sampson County Tax Administrator,” the draft ordinance states.

Every person with a dog or cat shall properly list those animals annually with the Tax Administrator during the month of January to obtain a county license, under the draft ordinance. Failure to do would be a violation and the offender would be subject to a civil penalty in the amount of $100 per dog or cat not listed. For subsequent violations within 12 months of a previous violation, the penalty shall be $200 for a second violation and $300 for a third violation, the ordinance states.

“Each privilege license issued shall be for a calendar year,” the ordinance states. “The Tax Administrator may delegate authority to issue such licenses to the Animal Shelter or to licensed veterinarians within the county duly registered for such purpose with the Tax Administrator upon such terms and conditions, including payment of a processing fee, as he deems advisable.”

The licenses will be renewed every year, upon proof of rabies vaccination.

County officials stressed that the draft ordinance was just that — a draft — and subject to further discussion.

“The board will begin its discussions on the ordinance at their Oct. 7 meeting,” said assistant county manager Susan Holder. “The board will have the option to schedule a public hearing for their November meeting, or study it further, suggest changes in November and then schedule a hearing on the amended ordinance for a meeting after that. The sections on pet licensing (and) fees are not finalized, and it was anticipated by the group which developed this draft that there would be a great deal of discussion and deliberation, especially on these sections, before the final ordinance was approved.”

According to the draft ordinance, residents who are 65 years of age or older may obtain a permanent license for up to three cats or dogs — or any combination — at no cost, provided that the permanent license is limited to no more than three animals per household. County residents may obtain a permanent license at no cost for a bona fide seeing-eye or aid dog. The licensing provisions also do not include those under the supervision of a veterinarian, or whose owners are non-residents visiting in the county for a period not exceeding 30 consecutive days.

Upon issuance of a license, a tag shall be issued for each dog and cat so licensed. The tag, to be fixed to the animal’s collar, shall contain the name and address of the owner of the dog or cat or a number registered with the animal shelter or tax administrator.

If adopted by the board, the revised ordinance would require the tax administrator to maintain records of licensed dogs and cats and such records shall be open to public inspection.

Each person “who owns or maintains a dog or cat that is primarily kept, kenneled or otherwise located in the county” should have the durable tag affixed to the collar and an implanted computer chip capable of being scanned by a chip reader, the draft ordinance states.

Privilege license fees for animals will be used toward needed improvements at the shelter.

“The revenues collected for the licensing or adoption of dogs and cats shall be specifically expended for physical improvements to the animal shelter or the equipment of the animal shelter, for the cost of administration and enforcement of this chapter, and for costs associated with public education programs and activities,” the draft ordinance states.

When ownership of a dog or cat is transferred within the county’s jurisdiction, the new owner will have 30 days to obtain a new privilege license for the animal. When ownership of a dog that has been declared dangerous or potentially dangerous is transferred within the county’s jurisdiction, the previous owner must notify the shelter and provide the name and address of the new owner within three business days.

The new owner shall immediately register that dog with the shelter and ensure all requirements of regarding maintaining a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog are complied with prior to the dog being relocated to the new owner’s property.

To inquire about the ordinance, contact the Sampson County main office, at 910-592-6308 or the Sampson County Animal Shelter at 910-592-8493.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at