Commissioners pass new regulations unanimously

An amendment to the county’s animal ordinance will place new restrictions on tethering pets and provide enhanced guidelines for animal cruelty cases.

The ordinance was approved Monday by Craven County Commissioners. Commissioner Steve Tyson made a motion to pass the ordinance, which was seconded by Commissioner George Liner. It was passed unanimously.

The ordinance, which goes into effect Jan. 1, amends the county’s current animal ordinance, adding a new Article 6.

Under the new ordinance, tethering devices must be connected to the animal by a buckle type collar or a body harness made of nylon or leather. Choke chains, ropes, and wire are prohibited.

Tethering devices must be at least 10 feet long and contain swivel hardware at each end to prevent tangling. The area where the animal is tethered must be a minimum of 150 square feet, and large enough for the animal to assume “any normal body position including standing, sitting, lying and walking.” The area also must be kept clean so that the animal can walk or lie down without coming into contact with accumulated waste.

“In no event may an animal be tethered for a period of time or under conditions that an animal control officer deems harmful or potentially harmful to the animal,” the ordinance states. It also prohibits the tethering of sick or injured animals as well as animals less than six months old.

Additionally, the ordinance calls for owners to provide adequate food, water, shelter, and medical treatment for their pets.

Animal control officers have a variety of remedies for violations of the ordinance's provisions. They can chose to obtain a magistrate's order to take possession of the animal, immediately impound the animal, issue a notice of violation directing the owner to correct the problem within 72 hours, issue a civil penalty for violation, or obtain a criminal summons or warrant.

Scott Harrelson, Craven County Environmental Health director, said he worked with commissioners to craft the new ordinance. He said the changes were motivated in part by photos and stories from county citizens detailing the mistreatment of animals.

“I think the commissioners were spurred to action by people coming to them and saying ‘Here’s what I’ve seen, something needs to be done,’” Harrelson noted. “This ordinance isn’t meant to be a hindrance to the citizens, but to abate some of the animal cruelty and to provide some guidelines on how to deal with those cases for our officers.”

Harrelson said he was hopeful the county could hire an additional animal control officer to work with the court system on animal cruelty cases.

“If we have an officer tied up in court that’s one less person we have in the field, so an additional staff person would be helpful,” Harrelson commented.

Commissioner Liner echoed Harrelson’s remarks.

“I felt these changes were important just based on the response of citizens who have seen animal cruelty in the county," he said. "This is a tough subject to cover, because animals are something that are so unique to each individual”

Liner said he believed it was important to pass a local ordinance to provide clearer guidelines for local animal control officers.

“State guidelines are very vague, so I think this was a necessary thing,and it will provide some protection for both sides of the issue," he commented. "This ordinance isn't perfect, but it is a start.”