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County updating pet rules on enclosures, rabies exposure

SALISBURY — Anyone who has dogs is sure to have them in a car at some point, said Peggy Mills.

What shouldn’t happen, she said, is to use a car as a crate or kennel on a permanent basis.

“It seems absurd, but it does happen,” said Mills.

Mills’ concern followed proposed changes to Rowan County pet ordinances that were addressed at a public hearing during Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting.

Bob Pendergrass, Rowan Animal Services director, said the changes came in light of nationwide changes about domestic animals exposed to rabies. The changes reduce voluntary quarantines from six months to four.

Pet owners would incur less costs and be more likely to retain their pets in the event of exposure.

Pendergrass said that Animal Services staff members and local advocacy groups saw implementing the new standards as an opportunity “to revisit all of our ordinances on a broad scale.”

The changes��addressed concerns for animal welfare about restraints, tethering, shelter and more.

The concern of permanently housing an animal in a car was addressed in a section on the restraint of nonvicious animals. It previously said that sufficient restraint includes a cage, fence, vehicle or similar secure enclosure.

This was revised to say a cage suitable for the animal, a fence or a similar secure enclosure or in a vehicle during transport.

The commissioners worried that the wording could potentially penalize pet owners who are making quick stops at farm supply stores, grocery stores and pharmacies.

But Pendergrass said the change was meant to address people using abandoned cars as dog houses.

Only those with animals loose in the back of open trucks are currently at risk of being fined. Pendergrass said this is a small civil penalty.

“We’re looking for compliance, not punishment, in every case we can,” he said.

In the end, the commissioners voted to let Pendergrass and the county attorney adjust the ordinance’s language to prevent unnecessary penalties.

“I don’t think there’s any problem with trying to make sure that the finished document is clear and understood,” said Commissioner Craig Pierce. “There seemed to be a little gray area here that I don’t know that we’ve taken proper time to address.”

The commissioners expect to see the reworded ordinances at their next meeting at 6 p.m.Feb. 19. Unless additional changes arise, the ordinances will pass through the consent agenda.

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