County animal ordinance to take effect

Published 8:41 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The county-wide animal ordinance adopted by the Decatur County Board of Commissioners will soon take effect.

The ordinance was approved on Oct. 14, to begin being enforced in 90 days, which is quickly approaching on Jan. 14.

A major push for the ordinance came after an 8-year-old girl, Shelby Yates, was attacked by a pair of vicious pit bulls at Smith’s Landing last July. She was taken to the hospital and received 18 stitches in her arm. At that time there was no county administrative procedure in place dealing with registration of animals, fees and penalties.

Many members of the community, including animal lovers, farmers and concerned citizens voiced their opinions to the Board of Commissioner on specification and revisions necessary in the ordinance prior to its adoption.

The newly adopted ordinance requires pet owners acquire a registration tag and show proof of up-to-date rabies vaccinations on all cats, dogs and ferrets. Those who have not registered or vaccinated their animals by Jan. 14 will be subject to a $50 fine.

Any dog or cat found not wearing a valid vaccination and registration tag off their owner’s property may be impounded in the Bainbridge animal shelter. In addition, animals must be confined to owners’ properties or under the owners’ control at all times when off the property.

Animal registration forms can be picked up from the Planning Department at 309 Airport Road or downloaded from www.decaturcountyga.org and tags will be provided free of charge. Proof of vaccination is necessary when registration takes place.

The ordinance also contains sections relating to the humane treatment of animals. One such clause says animals can no longer be chained to trees posts or anything else according to the no-tethering portion of the ordinance.

Addressing dangerous dogs, the ordinance defines the classification and requirements set for dogs deemed to be potentially dangerous, dangerous or vicious. Some requirement for these type of animals include enclosures, muzzles and other types of restraint.

The county’s animal control officer will investigate reports of problem dogs and the owner of the animal will be notified if the it is classified dangerous. The ordinance states that owners of such animals will have to pay an annual registration fee of $150 and acquire an insurance policy or surety bond in the amount of $75,000 or more.