07/17/07 — Duplin commissioners consider new animal control regulations

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Duplin commissioners consider new animal control regulations

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 17, 2007 1:45 PM

The Duplin County Board of Commissioners will ask residents for their input on a potential new animal control ordinance at a series of public information meetings beginning later this month.

The ordinance, which was written by Ken Rau, president of the Duplin chapter of the Humane Society, has been a work in progress over the last few months.

Currently, Duplin County has no actual animal control policy. Rather, it follows the general policies set out by the state. The county does operate an animal shelter and employs three staff members.

The new ordinance, Rau explained at the board's Monday meeting, would put guidelines in place for those staff members as they run the shelter and deal with the day-to-day issues of animal control -- how strays should be picked up and kept, how owners should be located and how animals should be euthanized.

The commissioners, however, voiced some concern about the county's ability to enforce the new regulations, citing a lack of resources to afford new personnel.

"Most of the these procedures currently are being performed by animal control, so we're not talking about a lot of added resources," Rau explained. "What this ordinance does, I feel, is standardize and authorize the enforcement of these procedures. Right now, these things are being done without authorization. Duplin can no longer afford not to have this ordinance."

But the commissioners' main concern was not what added duties would be placed on county animal control officers, but rather how the pet registration fee would be collected.

Under the proposed ordinance, owners would be billed $5 for each pet, while for hunters and others with personal kennels, a flat fee would be established.

The debate centered on whether to collect the registration fees through the county tax department or area veterinarians.

Collecting through the tax office would create more paperwork and place a larger burden on the county, but, Rau said, is likely to end up with a higher success rate. The bills would be sent to those people bringing their pets into the vets' offices for rabies shots, which are required under state law.

If the fee was collected by the veterinarians themselves, they would get to keep 20 percent to help cover administrative costs.

So far, though, only three of the county's five vets have said they would willingly cooperate with such a program. But, Rau acknowledged, the commissioners could simply make it mandatory.

The concern, however, is that county residents may resist paying the registration fee and having their pets placed into a countywide database.

"We know there are people in the county who, if we proceed with this, won't register their pets. There are people now who won't even get their (pets) rabies shots," said Commis-sioner Reginald Wells.

He also is worried about adding another tax to the backs of county residents, even though as Rau noted, it would simply shift more of the burden of supporting the county animal shelter and animal control office onto those people with pets.

Still, they all agreed that the next step is to hear what the community has to say.

"If the people come back and say they don't want this ordinance, we can tear it up and throw it away, and maybe come back with one that just meets the minimum requirements," Rau said. "But let's get this done. Let's not take forever to have these hearings."

A schedule for the hearings, which are planned to cover the entire county, will be released in the coming weeks.