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Pike County Times
The Pike County Times, PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. Click here to donate through PayPal. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor@pikecountytimes.com
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Animal Control Ordinance Now in Effect in Pike County
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - Animal control has been a hotly debated topic in Pike County for years. Those who support it do so with the knowledge that it will cost money and that the cities will need to participate and pay a portion of the cost. Those who are against it have various reasons including the fact that some people in the country take care of their own problems. Lack of animal control in Pike County has been discussed for a long time, but the talk turned to something more in 2007 and the State of Georgia has now mandated some aspects of animal control for all counties including Pike County which does not have an animal control facility.

The Board of Commissioners got on board with animal control after Mrs. Dolores Smith was attacked by wild dogs at her home on Vega Road and died from those injuries in 2007. Since that time, Friends of Pike County Animals has worked with commissioners and other animal organizations to help out where they could. Click here to see animal statistics in Pike County from January 2006 through March of 2010 that are four years old but still relevant as dog attacks in the county have been written in the newspaper on a regular basis.

Last week, I sat down with County Manager John Hanson and Planning and Development Director David Allen, who is the acting animal control officer in Pike County at this time, to discuss what steps the county is taking to enact animal control in our county.

The Board of Commissioners approved the second reading of the Chapter 91, Animal Control Ordinance in the January 28, 2014 meeting. This ordinance has been the topic of discussion for several months, and some changes were made before final passage. The approved version does not contain any language about impounding animals since Pike County does not have an impound facility and the 50 cent per rabies shot fee that was required for all shots given in the county was removed as well. Click here to read this ordinance.

This ordinance gives the definition of a dangerous or vicious dog. Pike County’s definitions are the same as that of state law and section 91.08 outlines the procedure that will be followed to notify the owner of the right to request a hearing and the steps that the county will take when a dog is classified as a dangerous or vicious dog. Hearings will now go through Magistrate Court. Director Allen stressed that Pike County’s laws are not directed toward any particular breed.

Pike County’s ordinance is based on House Bill 685 which defines responsible dog ownership and clarifies state law with definitions of “dangerous” and “vicious” dogs. This law became effective on July 1, 2012 and applies to all counties in the state regardless of whether there is animal control or not. According to Director Allen, the complaints that come through his office are approximately 1/3 nuisance, 1/3 dangerous, and 1/3 dogs and other animals being dumped at residents’ properties and people trying to find a place for them.

Section 91.12 addresses dog restraint districts. These districts are defined as public areas such as government properties, schools, the recreation fields, etc. Subdivisions are not included though residents could vote to include their subdivision through a 2/3 approval vote and notify the county with a written copy of their decision after the vote is taken.

Minimum penalties for violations are defined in Section 91.17. Dangerous and vicious dog incidents involving a pet will be $250 while one involving a human will be $500. Dog nuisance incidents other than excessive noise complaints will be penalized at $100. Noise incidents will be $50. Dumping or abandonment of animals and animal cruelty will be $500. Dogs running at large in restraint districts will be $50. Failure to provide rabies vaccinations will cost $100. And the keeping of wild or exotic animals without county approval will be a $500 fine.

All citations will be addressed through Magistrate Court and violators will be charged with misdemeanors unless otherwise stated in the ordinance. Fines for convictions will be transferred to the Animal Control Department to pay for its operating expenses. “This gives any citizen a method of addressing complaints,” he said.

Director Allen described this ordinance as a learning process for everyone and said that he will be asking to address this with cities over the next year. County Manager Hanson said that the county will work toward intergovernmental agreements with the cities about animal control since Williamson and Zebulon have some animal control laws on their books, but none of the other counties have anything.

County Manager John Hanson said that the county has to follow state law, and that the passage of this ordinance will improve quality of life here in the county. “This will not affect most dog owners because most are responsible dog owners.”

If there is a potential problem with a nuisance, dangerous or vicious dog, the proper protocol is to call the Planning and Development Office at 770-567-2007 and ask for David Allen. After hours or on the weekends, call the Pike County Sheriff’s Office at 770567-8431. The Sheriff’s Office is not handling animal control but will forward complaints to David Allen, who is the county’s Animal Control Officer.