Animal nuisance study group needs more time, members tell City Council

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 19, 2013

SALISBURY — The citizen group studying how to regulate nuisance animals and animal welfare needs more time to come up with recommendations, members said Tuesday.
Co-chairmen Brian Romans and Matthew Dellinger told City Council 90 days wasn’t long enough to complete the committee’s research and come up with a draft resolution or ordinance.
Council members said they were pleased with the group’s progress so far and agreed to allow the task force, which includes a police officer, veterinarian, dog trainer and five others, to continue meeting.
Romans gave City Council a good idea of where the committee is headed on each of nine concerns that members are tackling:
• Feral cats — come up with a trap, neuter and release program to control the population
• Lack of education on humane animal treatment — create a brochure for distribution in neighborhoods; explore the possibility of having a regular column in the Salisbury Post written by an animal advocate about proper pet care
• Fines — establish a graduated fine system so repeat offenders would pay more with each violation
• Loose dogs — address with graduated fines
• Tethering — adopt a new city ordinance that either strictly regulates tethering, such as limiting the number of hours a day that a dog can be chained, or ban the practice
• Humane treatment — adopt an ordinance in support
• Barking — address with graduated fines
• Wild animals — city’s housing ordinances address this to some degree; requires contacting state wildlife authorities for permits for certain types of traps
• Animal waste — research what other cities are doing; consider an ordinance requiring owners to pick up after their dog
So far, the committee has researched nuisance animal and animal welfare ordinances in about 30 cities with populations similar to Salisbury’s, as well as holding a public workshop where more than 40 people attended.
Romans said the group is working to protect the safety and welfare of both residents and animals while respecting the rights of property owners.
While the public forum generated 21 topics of concern, tethering was the issue that the task force members discussed every time they met, Romans said.
Tying a dog out for extended periods of time “is never going to result in a positive physical or mental state for the dog,” Romans said. “That is something that we are very, very sure of.”
Some cities limit the time a dog can be chained to a few hours a day. Other communities ban tethering altogether, or limit the number of dogs that can be tethered on the same property.
Romans said the committee also wants to revisit the definition of adequate food, water, shelter and hygiene for dogs kept outside.
Members also are discussing recommendations for how to enforce new and existing animal-related regulations, as well as how to fund any new initiatives they may propose.
In their research, committee members found that cities with the most success in controlling the pet population and limiting animal nuisances work closely with county-run animal control services, Romans said. In those cities, police and city code enforcement partner with the sheriff’s office and animal control, he said.
City Manager Doug Paris suggested the committee review the city’s agreement with Rowan County, which took over animal control for the city several years ago.
While response from Rowan County Animal Control is good from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, “weekends and evenings have slipped through the cracks,” said Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell, who worked with the task force.
The city lost some of its ability to enforce the leash law when Salisbury delegated animal control to Rowan County, Blackwell said.
“Some people have picked up on our inability to enforce the leash law after hours,” she said.
Blackwell defended task force members against emails sent to the city calling them “leftists” and “pinkos” and said it’s been the best committee she’s ever worked with.
The committee meets again Aug. 8.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.