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Wednesday, 05 December 2007 00:00

Jackson may put an end to Wal-Mart dog mart

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By Jennifer Garlesky • Staff Writer

Jackson County residents will have the opportunity to voice their concerns about the county’s revisions to its animal control ordinance at a public hearing on Dec. 17.

Commissioners have been reviewing the ordinance for the past several months and are planning to vote on it at their next meeting.

Additions that are being considered are a ban on the selling of dogs or cats outside a public place (like in front of Wal-Mart), more stringent regulations requiring the spaying and neutering of pets, and a better method for dealing with nuisance animals.

 

Wal-Mart’s dog mart

Some pet owners will sell or give away animals in front of retail stores such as Ingles or Wal-Mart. Shoppers leaving the store see the cute animal and decide on an impulse to take it home. But often these animals end up at the county’s shelter. The new ordinance would make this practice against the law.

If the county adds this stipulation to the ordinance, the county’s animal control officers will be able to better ensure that shelter animals will be fixed.

“We don’t know if people actually spay and neuter the animals they purchase or get in front of stores,” said Chris Tyson, Jackson County animal control officer. If a litter of puppies is born, Tyson says, the owners should drop the litter off at the shelter where the officers will have the opportunity to see that the animals are spayed or neutered. Any animal purchased at the county’s shelter is required to be spayed or neutered under the county’s current animal control ordinance.

The adoption fee for dogs and cats includes the spaying or neutering of the animal. The cost of a shelter dog is $50, and the owner receives a $35 certificate to get the animal fixed in the next 30 days. But when the pet leaves the shelter, there is no way of knowing that the animal will be taken to a vet, Tyson explained.

Some residents would like to see the county spay or neuter any animal that is not fixed and ends up at the shelter. What the county is considering is giving pet owners who come to reclaim their animal two options, Tyson said. The first option is to pay a set fee to get the animal back. The second would allow the owner to get the animal back at a lower price if they agreed to have it fixed, Tyson explained.

Jackson County Department of Public Health Director Paula Carden supports a strict regulation for spay and neutering.

“Anytime you have spay or neutering through policy, it always prevents unwanted animals,” she said.

 

Problem dogs

Tyson is urging for commissioners to develop a better method for dealing with nuisance animals.

Right now under the county’s current ordinance, the county animal control officers are spending too much time dealing with these animals, he said.

Under the current ordinance, an animal becomes a nuisance if it damages public or private property, chases or harasses pedestrians, livestock, bicyclists, vehicles or other animals, and is dangerous to public health and safety.

“We need to find a way to streamline it instead of taking it to court,” Tyson said. Animal control officers are spending too much time in court on these cases instead of in the field, according to Tyson.

But agreeing on the definition of a nuisance animal has proven difficult.

“We might be getting beyond what we want if we start trying to decide what a nuisance dog is,” Commissioner Brian McMahan said during a work session earlier this month. “Some people might say anything is a nuisance.”

In Macon County the sheriff’s office is constantly hearing complaints about nuisance animals, according to Sheriff Robbie Holland.

“Our main problem has been dealing with nuisance animals,” he said.

But Holland and his deputies do not have a way of dealing with these animals because the county is lacking an animal control ordinance.

“Just because someone complains, there is nothing we can do,” he said. “You have a wide variety for what a nuisance dog is.”

Macon County leaders are currently in the process of drafting an ordinance, which they hope to have in place when construction is complete on the county animal shelter.

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