County Council makes changes to Animal Control Code
November 28, 2014
The Summit County Council made some of the most substantial changes to the Animal Control Code since 2011, including an amendment to the county’s licensing requirements. The amendments, which the County Council approved on Nov. 12, address licensing, barking, tethering, and kennel permits.
After expressing serious concerns about unwanted animals, however, the council decided to rescind a possible amendment that would have required county-wide sterilization, choosing instead to impose a higher fee for non-altered animals.
County Council member Roger Armstrong said the new code is meant to be more user friendly, while "instilling common sense and practicality."
"It’s rare that you get the opportunity to look at an existing law and determine how to make it better," Armstrong said. "I think we came out with something that does work better for the community, so that people don’t have to guess about what they need to do."
Animal Control Director Brian Bellamy said the changes to the code simply codified the county’s practices.
"We wanted to change the code to reflect what we were already doing," Bellamy said.
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In January, the county will start issuing three-year licenses instead of annual licensing, to correspond with the three-year rabies vaccine. All dogs in the county must be licensed to a person at least 18 years old.
The language in the ordinance is meant to reflect that licensing will expire at the same time as rabies vaccines, according to documents provided by Deputy County Attorney Helen Strachan. Newly issued licenses will be effective for three years, if purchased along with a rabies vaccine.
The County Council will be meeting on Dec. 10 to set the prices for the new licenses. Currently, a one-license costs $6 for an altered dog and $18 for an un-altered one. Licensing can be completed online at the Animal Control Website http://www.summitcountyanimalcontrol.org/ .
"It’s just going to make it easier for everyone that way," Bellamy said.
The County Council also added language to the code to require a barking log to address complaints of nuisance barking.
Under the new code, Animal Control will issue a barking log to determine if the complaint is valid. A barking dog is defined as a dog that makes any noise for 30 minutes or more in any 24-hour period or intermittently for 60 minutes or more during that same time frame. Working dogs are exempt from this section of the code.
Bellamy said an attempt is made to resolve the issue between the complainant and dog owner before Animal Control officers issue a warning, which grants a 10-day correction period in lieu of a citation.
"We would rather have people voluntarily come into compliance than have to give them a citation," Bellamy said. "That’s the tack we’ve taken."
The council decided to remove the time limitations on tethering after animal control officers had an incident involving an unharmed dog at a work site. There is not an outright ban on it, but the language in the code recognizes tethering as unlawful if it causes injury or restricts the animal’s overall movement resulting in harm.
The County Council began conversations with Animal Control during the summer. Language concerning at-large animals was changed in August to reflect the use of designated off-leash areas after consulting with a Leash Law Task Force for the past year.
The whole process led the county attorney’s office to look at the Animal Control Code and see what else needed to be addressed.
But the rest of the topics were tabled, in part, because Animal Control doesn’t currently have the personnel to enforce the new ordinances.
In his recommended budget to County Council, County Manager Bob Jasper suggested creating nine additional full-time positions within the county, including three positions in the Animal Control Department.
"When the recession hit, we were put in a position as a county to cut personnel in the Animal Control division and the problem is when you have laws that are not enforced it creates issues and it creates a potential liability," Armstrong said. "The code was designed to make sense, but still protect both sides. It puts the responsibility for a dog where it belongs, on the dog owner to a reasonable degree. And the other side of this is the need to have the necessary enforcement to make sure that can be accomplished."
The amendments are posted on the county’s Animal Control website at http://www.summitcountyanimalcontrol.org/ . The amendments will go into effect on Dec. 7.