County updates animal control laws to match city’s ordinance

Published 9:16 am Monday, March 14, 2022

The Decatur County Commissioners met for their monthly meeting Tuesday morning. After hearing public complaints about the recent intergovernmental agreement regarding trash services, Director of Community and Economic Development Steve O’Neil spoke with the commissioners about updating the county’s animal control ordinance.

“What this is, is just a combination of the existing county ordinance and the existing city ordinance,” O’Neil said. “I’ve put them together because I have animal control officers that patrol both areas, and it makes everything easier to just have everything in one ordinance that they can reference.” He elaborated later in an interview with the Post-Searchlight, saying, “Having to refer to two different ordinances, that, if you put the two of them side by side, although the sections may be different, the overall things are the same, why not combine them?”

Another change to the ordinance, for both the city and county, was the incorporation of the Georgia Responsible Dog Ownership laws. “The responsible dog ownership section was a state law that was passed in about 2012, and although we’ve been trying to enforce that state law, it was never adopted into our own ordinances,” O’Neil said in the interview. “So while we were going about his, I figured we’ll update them both, so we’re both in compliance, the city and the county.”

The new ordinance would also see the county adopt the city’s fine and fee schedule for various animal-related violations. When asked by commissioners about what the old fees were, O’Neil said, “The one that sticks out in my mind was animal cruelty, $50. It’s not that they were bad when they were originally put in, I don’t know when this was originally put in, but things have stepped up since then.”

One issue raised by Commissioner Bobby Barber was the section dealing with prohibiting burning of dead animals as disposal. “There are a lot of chicken houses in this county that burn incinerators every day,” he said. O’Neil has since updated the language to address this, with the ordinance now clarifying, “Commercial poultry operations are exempt from the requirements of this section.”