Animal Ordinance Approved
Moore County's new animal control ordinance goes into effect Dec. 1.
After nine months of intensive research and debate, the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the new ordinance. In so doing, the board repealed the old ordinance, effective Nov. 30.
"Our committee members came from every discipline and interest and were faithful in attendance," said Mary Jo Morris, chairwoman of the committee that proposed the revisions.
Commissioner Jimmy Melton, who formed the committee, said the committee addressed every issue brought before it.
Fellow commissioners admitted their earlier apprehension that the revision would not be possible because of opposition from differing interests. Commissioner Tim Lea pointed out that this was the third time the county had tried to update the old ordinance, adopted in 1988.
And Commissioner Larry Caddell said he had personally advised Melton not to take on the job.
"There were people determined for it not to happen," Board Chairman Colin McKenzie said. "I'm pleased, too."
It happened because some contentious issues are not addressed. The new ordinance does not require licensing cats and dogs and does not contain a leash requirement. The ordinance also does not address the issue of hunting dogs running onto private property, a problem that always attracts bitter debate at hearings on the subject of hunting deer with dogs.
For the most part, however, the large attendance at the public hearing expressed enthusiastic approval of the measure. When the commissioners voted to adopt the new ordinance, the crowd burst into cheers and applause.
Not everyone was pleased.
During the public-comment period at the beginning of the meeting, Ann Hopkins complained that she brought up the subject of hunting dogs running loose into private yards, causing damage and endangering the public. Hopkins, who lives in Whispering Pines, said she told the committee about this problem at the first meeting last February.
Hopkins unrolled a lengthy printout from the county tax office listing all the private property within a designated area in which hunting dogs have been known to collect while on the run. After the meeting, Hopkins said she paid $40 to the tax office to cover the cost of the long printout.
No objections were raised by the public later in the meeting when the commissioners held a hearing on the proposed ordinance.
Robert Ryals was one of three speakers who mentioned feral cats in particular. The new ordinance calls the practice of TNR (trap, neuter, release) an acceptable way to handle feral cats, the descendants of former domestic pets that have been abandoned by owners and have become acclimated to living in the wild.
TNR is one means of controlling their population and cutting the number of euthanizations carried out by the county's Animal Shelter.
"I realize the cats are a nuisance to some people, but they are a joy to other people," Ryals said. "Whatever you do for the cats, please do for the birds."
Joyce Ryals, his daughter, said that at one time 24 feral cats could be seen around the Southern Pines Post Office and now the number is down to four.
Sherry Mortenson, of Southern Pines, pointed out that one objective of the committee was reduction of euthanasia, and the TNR program is recognized as an effective way to control the feral cat population.
Maureen Burke-Horansky, founder of Animal Advocates of Moore County and a committee member, voiced a simple thank you to the commissioners for promoting the revision effort.
In asking the board to adopt the ordinance, Morris expressed appreciation to committee members and to Al Carter, animal control director, and his staff, to Deputy County Attorney Brenda White and The Pilot newspaper for publicizing the effort.
Carter served as facilitator for the committee, and White provided legal advice. County Manager Cary McSwain, also a committee member, contributed advice on the practical financial side of the document.
The new ordinance covers a number of issues not addressed in the existing ordinance. A whole section is devoted to equine needs, possession of non-domestic animals is prohibited, and the section on treatment of pets, including shelter, food and water adequacy, is expanded. For the first time, the issue of feral cats is addressed.
The feral cat issue and a section controlling the use of traps on private property were the only subjects drawing protest from the public at previous meetings of the committee and the commissioners. Opponents of feral cats complained that they carry disease and deplete the wild bird population. Critics of the trapping section said the county does not have jurisdiction over trapping, which is controlled by the State Wildlife Commission.
The commissioners held a work session on the ordinance in September.
Melton made the motion to repeal the old ordinance and adopt the new one, and McKenzie made the second.
Pleased with the committee's efforts, Melton had made arrangements for a group photograph to be taken after the ordinance was adopted. The hearing was heavily attended by committee members.
The committee has been advised that its services may be needed in the future for such things as communication with the public and studying possible future updates. Members included representatives of several animal welfare organizations, hunters, breeders, pet lovers, veterinarians and animal control officers.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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