The Sampson County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing Monday on a comprehensive animal ordinance that seeks to promote public safety by addressing all aspects of animal care and pet ownership, including detailed regulations on dangerous dogs, as well as penalties for abuse, neglect, cruelty and non-vaccination of animals, among many other provisions.
The hearing is slated for 6 p.m. Monday, March 31, in the County Auditorium.
A committee formed at the beginning of 2013, comprised of representatives with the Health Department, Sheriff’s Office, the Animal Shelter and Board of Health, drafted the ordinance. The initial draft was presented to the Board of Commissioners in fall 2013 and was subsequently revised.
Committee members said the proposed ordinance would provide stronger legal authority for Animal Control deputies, meant to promote public safety by addressing a variety of incidents with which various county departments are regularly confronted, but not addressed formally with an ordinance.
Cpl. Jessica Kittrell, one of three Sheriff’s Office Animal Control deputies tasked with answering calls for service, said those calls include everything from dangerous dogs, nuisance and injured animals, reports of cruelty and abandonment, bites, strays and other issues. Restrictions on dangerous dogs, as well as address nuisance animals, breeders and wild and exotic animals are also addressed in the 34-page draft ordinance.
Health director Wanda Robinson said the purpose of the proposed ordinance is to promote the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Sampson County. She called it “one of the best documents” brought to the board. Certain provisions of the document initially included, notably requirements for owners to obtain privilege licenses for their pets and list them annually with the Tax Administrator — and fines for non-compliance — have since been eliminated.
However, there will be fines for numerous offenses, all outlined in the proposed ordinance.
Among them are sections that address animal abandonment, attacks, bites to humans and other animals, animal fighting and property damage and nuisance. Also encompassed in the ordinance are new regulations on dangerous dogs and how to register them, and rules concerning rabies vaccination for dogs, cats, ferrets or other pets.
Under the proposed ordinance, fines will also be assessed for failure to properly confine and tether animals, failure to provide treatment for diseased, injured or sick animals; and failure to provide food, water and/or shelter to an animal. Additionally, those who fail to provide proof of vaccination tag, fail to spay or neuter an adopted animal and engage in the inhumane treatment or cruelty of animals are also subject to punishment under the proposed ordinance.
The civil penalty for a first violation is $50 or a violation more than 12 months after a previous violation. For subsequent violations within 12 months, the penalty will be $100 for a second violation and $200 for a third, and any subsequent, offense.
In addition to civil penalties, any violation shall also be classified as a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $100 and imprisonment of not more than 20 days if the fine is not paid within 30 days, according to the draft document.
Under the proposed ordinance, the county has the authority to waive fines for first time offenders if it can be demonstrated that the owner of the animal has come into compliance with the ordinance and the violation did not threaten the health, safety or welfare of the general public.
To read the proposed animal ordinance in its entirety, visit the Sampson County website, at www.clintonnc.com.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.