10/16/07 — Duplin Commissioners postpone animal control ordinance

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Duplin Commissioners postpone animal control ordinance

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 16, 2007 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County pet owners don't have to worry about registering their cats and dogs -- at least not yet -- now that the county Board of Commissioners has voted unanimously to delay any actual decision until after a new committee can come up with another draft proposal.

"In order to have a good ordinance that has the support of the citizens of Duplin County, we need to take another look," Commissioner L.S. Guy said. "I think this is a good compromise at this time."

Monday's decision continues a process that began more than two years ago when the board approved a $5 dog and cat tax to help raise funds to make improvements to the animal shelter. That fee, however, was never implemented.

So, to allow the county to secure those extra dollars, the commissioners drafted Ken Rau, president of the Duplin County Humane Society, to help write an ordinance that would create some sort of collection procedure and would set out guidelines for animal control officers to follow.

It was his proposal the board scrapped Monday morning.

That decision to hold off on adopting the new ordinance was made after county residents -- primarily hunters -- spoke out in opposition to it during a series of five public meetings held during the last month and a half.

From those meetings, Rau said officials identified a list of 54 concerns -- all of which he addressed during a presentation to the commissioners.

"Those are some of the key ones we heard over and over again. A lot of them didn't really call for changes, just clarification," he said. "But the ordinance was revised accordingly."

Among the most significant concerns was the provision that called for the fees be collected by county vets. That, Rau explained, was changed to allow the county to include the charge on residents' tax bills or as a separate invoice.

Others that were clarified included a concern that hunting dogs could be picked up as strays, and one that dealt with dangerous dogs.

Rau explained that the ordinance "specifically exempts dogs engaged in hunting from being considered at-large," and that a state-mandated animal advisory board would be responsible for declaring any dog to be dangerous before it could be destroyed.

"The intent from the beginning is that this would be businesses as usual -- that it would be based on citizen complaints or concerns," he said.

But, he continued, the ordinance is necessary because currently, there are no local guidelines in place -- only state statutes.

"Without this ordinance, there's nothing that talks about how to enforce those state laws, and there have been a lot of inconsistencies," Rau said, urging the board to approve the revised proposal.

The 50 or so hunters in attendance Monday morning had other ideas, though.

Speaking through only a couple of representatives, they urged the commissioners to set Rau's ordinance aside and allow them to help write a new one. Previously nobody from the hunting and sporting dog communities was involved.

"I've heard one person speak in favor of the ordinance, and I've heard several hundred hunters speak against it," said Frank Brown, president of the Duplin County Coon Hunters Association. "We're asking you to appoint a local advisory committee. If you've got an animal advisory board for Duplin County, you need to represent everyone.

"This has been a flawed process from the beginning."

And apparently, the board agreed that it could have been done better as Commissioner Harold Raynor offered the motion to postpone any decision. He said that he was hopeful that County Manager Mike Aldridge would be able to organize a new committee sometime before the beginning of 2008, and that it could begin work on a new ordinance shortly thereafter.

"I can't say a timetable, but we don't need to let it die," he said. "We need to start back into it so we can get something drafted."