STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
COUNTY OF HENDERSON MAY 20, 2003
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners met for a special called meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the Kaplan Auditorium at the Henderson County Library on Washington Street.
Those present were: Chairman Grady Hawkins, Vice-Chairman Larry Young, Commissioner Bill Moyer, Commissioner Charlie Messer, Commissioner Shannon Baldwin, County Manager David E. Nicholson, County Attorney Angela S. Beeker, and Clerk to the Board Elizabeth W. Corn.
Also present were: Assistant County Attorney Russ Burrell, Robert Smith and Tom Bridges from the Public Health Department, and Brenda Miller from the Animal Shelter. Dr. Chapman, Chairman of the Board of Health, was also present.
CALL TO ORDER/WELCOME
Chairman Hawkins called the meeting to order and welcomed all in attendance. He informed those in attendance that last fall the Board of Health made a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners with three phases. Phase I was to enact and implement a new basic Animal Service Ordinance. He recognized Dr. Chapman, Chairman of the Board of Health, to discuss the Board of Health recommendation.
Chairman Hawkins made the motion for the Board to go into public hearing at 7:08 p.m. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Dr. Chapman reminded those present that it is the mission of Henderson County Animal Services to enhance the health and safety of all citizens in Henderson County by improving the co-existence of animals and humans through an animal service program that reflects professional concern for responsible pet ownership and the public in general.
Animal Services now has the following Animal Services staff:
C One Animal Control Supervisor
C One administrative staff member
C Three persons in field operations
C One person in shelter operations
This staff has provided both shelter operations and animal control enforcement for the unincorporated portion of the county. Recently, however, it was decided to temporarily enforce the present county Animal Control Ordinance in the municipalities pending adoption of a new ordinance. This arrangement further strains existing county animal control services, and requires field officers to interpret situations in light of conflicting county and municipal ordinances. If municipal control ordinances (Aleash laws@) were actively enforced by the municipalities that have already enacted them, there would be little or no need to enforce the county=s current Animal Control Ordinance within such municipalities. It may be that the domestic animal population in the county has now reached a critical mass sufficient to warrant a county control law. This could reduce much of the problems that drive citizen complaints and it may provide a segue to cooperative county/municipal animal control services.
At this time the Sheriff=s Department enforces the noise ordinance, which includes complaints regarding barking dogs. The Sheriff=s Department is also charged with enforcement of animal abuse matters.
Regarding shelter operations activities, the NACA report stated that A(a) minimum of 3 staff members is required each day, solely for performing cleaning and feeding duties@. From the NACA report, many aspects of an appropriate Animal Services program are not being performed in Henderson County as recommended. The Board of Health finds that our Animal Services program has and continues to operate as well as can be expected at the current funding level. Our current program is understaffed and under equipped. The current use of surplus vehicles that are not designed for and do not adequately meet animal control needs makes job performance all the more difficult. The Animal Control Supervisor should be more available to communicate with the public, rather than being required to spend the bulk of her time in the field. If the new ordinance is passed and funded at current budget levels, the Animal Services program in Henderson County will continue to be understaffed and under equipped.
They understand the current budget crisis but they also realize that Animal Services needs stronger commitment and support. Citizen complaints indicate an expectation that Henderson County should provide a higher level of services than can be provided at present funding levels. The County Commissioners, however, must find a way to fund the existing program more adequately before adding more service expectations by adding new ordinance provisions.
Dr. Chapman gave their vision for the three phases.
C Enact and implement a new basic Animal Service Ordinance including a change to citations and civil penalties as the primary means of enforcement.
C Establish inter-local agreements clarifying jurisdiction and responsibility with incorporated areas of the county.
C Improve safety for Animal Service Officers through continued co-operation with the Sheriff=s Department and improved communication from the field.
C Plan for a new Animal Service Facility including operational goals in the design.
C Construct a new facility that facilitates expanded services.
C Provide adequate funding to allow Animal Services to:
Develop a program & protocol to better deal with injured animals
Reduce the number of unvaccinated companion animals in our county
C Increase hours of operation to include evenings and weekends.
C Increase the percentage of adopted animals.
C Improve our program for dealing with injured animals, particularly after regular business hours.
C Increase the percentage of spayed and neutered animals.
C Reduce the number of uncontrolled domestic animals.
C Implement a comprehensive microchip identification program.
C Improve co-operation with other animal welfare agencies to improve efficiency and reduce duplication of services.
C Establish public education program and volunteer support.
C Provide a better response time for citizen concerns.
Assistant County Attorney, Russ Burrell, gave a Power Point presentation entitled AHenderson County Animal Control 2003 - A New Ordinance For Different Times@ which covered the following:
Problems with the Current Ordinance
C Current Ordinance was last revised in 1985
Board of Health Approach to Creating the Draft Ordinance
C Obtained a study of the current animal control system.
C Obtained ordinances from other NC counties.
C Attempted a systemic approach - to draft an ordinance (only a part of the system) consistent with
improving the entire animal control system.
C Draft ordinance assumes improvements in animal control facilities as well as the ordinance.
C Board of Health draft includes a Abasic ordinance@ as well as specific proposals for amendment, if desired.
Provisions of the Draft Ordinance
C It completely repeals and replaces current Chapter 66.
C It expressly excludes any municipalities. (One of the possible amendments submitted by the Board of Health adds the municipalities back to the ordinance.)
C It sets out the duties of animal control officers and the animal control supervisor.
C It makes the collection of civil penalties the primary (but not only) vehicle for enforcement.
C It broadens somewhat the definition of Apotentially dangerous dogs@ from the current statutory definition.
C It sets restrictions on dangerous/potentially dangerous dogs which are greater than those imposed by the statute.
C It sets out hearing procedures for appeals from determinations that a dog is dangerous/potentially dangerous.
C It sets out stiff penalties for failure to comply with restrictions on dangerous dogs.
C It makes unlawful the deprivation of food, water, necessary medical attention or appropriate shelter to domestic animals.
C It sets standards for impoundment of animals including notice to any known owner, and for the impoundment period. It sets requirements for redemption of impounded animals and for their adoption (spay/neuter and microchipping of all adopted animals). It also sets standards for the humane destruction of unclaimed and unadopted animals. All animals redeemed by the owners must show proof of rabies vaccination.
C It does not conflict with statutes regulating, restricting, authorizing or affecting dogs used in lawful hunting.
C It requires vaccination of all dogs and cats against rabies, including hybrid animals.
C It sets standards for confinement and if necessary seizure of animals which have bitten a person or shows symptoms of rabies.
C It sets penalties for failure to comply with vaccination and confinement requirements.
C It provides for a fund to hold donations and civil penalties to be used for the Animal Service Center. (Note, as before this requires agreement of the Board of Education.)
Mr. Burrell compared the Current Ordinance with the Health Board Draft Basic Ordinance:
Current Ordinance Draft Basic Ordinance
C No statement of territorial applicability Proposed ordinance only valid in unincorporated
of ordinance. areas of county.
C No provision included. Establishes specific duties for animal control
C No provision included. Grants animal control officers the power to issue
the citations for civil penalties to violators.
C Makes it unlawful to interfere Makes it unlawful to interfere with animal control
with animal control officer. officer and to conceal an animal for the purpose of
evading rabies vaccination laws.
C Definition of Anuisance@ same as Definition of Apublic nuisance@ same as definition
definition of Apublic nuisance@ in of Anuisance@ in existing ordinance except noise
draft. ANuisance@ animals required issues expressly excluded. Illegal to keep an
to be kept Aunder restraint@ as defined animal in a manner constituting a Apublic
in the ordinance. nuisance@. Confinement may be ordered as well as abatement of nuisance.
C Impoundment Impoundment
No spay/neuter requirement for Redeemed pets (as well as all adopted pets) must
redemption. Be spayed or neutered.
No adoption allowed of Aaggressive@ or Aunhealthy@ animals.
C Enforcement Enforcement
Criminal penalties for third degree Same penalties for third degree misdemeanor.
Civil penalties limited to $50,000 Civil penalties vary by validation. Maximum per
per violation (on a per diem basis). penalties proposed.
Possible amendments to the basic ordinance proposed by the Board of Health were:
#1 Includes definition and regulation of Aexotic animals@.
#2 Strengthens the definition of public nuisance.
#3 Requires dogs to be under restraint when off their owner=s property. Creates $50 penalty for failure to have dog under restraint.
#4 Adds the option for owners to have unwanted dogs and cats picked up by Animal Service Officers, for a fee.
#5 Requires persons who injure a domesticated animal to notify the owner or the Animal Service Center or law enforcement.
#6 Defines and regulates Asecurity dogs@.
#7 Creates a tax on dogs and cats with an additional tax on dogs or cats which have not been neutered or spayed. Also creates a kennel/cattery tax allowing lower per animal taxation for such businesses but limiting the number of animals and regulating them in other ways.
#8 Requires dogs and cats to be implanted with a microchip identification device. By implication, dogs or cats without such devices would be strays and subject to impoundment.
#9 Would make the ordinance applicable within the incorporated municipalities of Henderson County.
Mr. Burrell explained that the current ordinance, adopted in 1985, is outdated given the changes of the past 18 years. The draft Abasic ordinance@ shows what may be able to be done without a significant budgetary increase. Draft Aamendments@ provide the Board with a menu of options with which to meet the future of animal control in the county.
Pat deLemer - Ms. deLemer stated that the money to fund the new ordinance and animal services should come from the animal owners. She discussed the need for rabies vaccinations and for registering animals. She stated that we needed to implement State Law. She stated that animals should not be able to stray and cause problems to their neighbors.
Chairman Hawkins asked that the packet of letters that the Board had received from residents about this issue up to this date be made a part of this meeting.
Donnie R. Parks - Chief of Police, Hendersonville Police Department, Donnie Parks reiterated the mission of Henderson County Animal Services. He asked the Board to consider the adoption of amendment # 9 as part of the newly revised ordinance which would mean that the ordinance would be enforced in the municipalities as well as the county. After all, municipal residents are also county residents said Parks.
Peter deLemer - Mr. deLemer stated that animals cannot speak for themselves. He asked about an implementation timeline, calling it a target or wish line. He stated that the new draft ordinance has many penalties and asked that there be some positives or pluses such as education, leash training, agility training, and/or socialization classes for animals. He discussed briefly advantages of microchiping and rabies tags.
Diane Clark - Ms. Clark mentioned the need for education. She favored strengthening the existing ordinance. She questioned the number of animals someone could have. The ordinance doesn=t address that. She stated that an Animal Services Officer should be hired to be on call to deal with injured animals after hours. She talked about animals running loose and stressed the need for a leash law.
Jim Walsh - Mr. Walsh is from the Henderson County Humane Society. He spoke in favor of registration of animals and stated that spaying and neutering of animals could change the size of shelter needed, therefore, he felt that phase III should be looked at along with phase I. He also asked about a timeline.
Richard R. Ristau - Mr. Ristau stated that he agrees with the enforcement of the control of animals. He stated that he was recently attacked by a pit bull dog. The owner was contacted many times. Mr. Ristau tried to talk to the owner about controlling his animal. He later learned from Animal Control that the dog was classified as dangerous, that if he attacked again he had the right to shoot the dog. The dog attacked him again about 10 months later when he was working in his yard. He got away from the dog and went in the house. When he went back outside the dog attacked him once again. He was ready that time and shot the dog. He had to pay the expense of proving that he was in the right (hire an attorney)which cost him $800 or more in legal fees. The owner never reimbursed him for any medical costs.
Mr. Ristau stated that this was probably no fault of the dog. The dog was tormented while tied on a run, children would chase him with a lawnmower and hit him. He feels that we need better enforcement of our laws.
Carol Kauppert - Ms. Kauppert stressed the importance of spaying and neutering, stating that we would not have the unwanted animals if we had a good spay/neuter program. She stated that we need a provision for spaying or neutering for people who cannot afford to have it done. Vets charge $75 or more to spay or neuter. We need a spay/neuter clinic. A good spay/neuter program may curtail the need for a large shelter.
Mary Dunn - Ms. Dunn quoted reproduction statistics, stating that in seven years two dogs can reproduce resulting in 4,372 offspring. Two cats in four years can reproduce resulting in 20,736 offspring. How many of those animals are destroyed? She feels that the new ordinance will result in a lot of dead animals and in a lot of Aspite@ suits or Anuisance@ suits.
Annette Green - Ms. Green lives off 5th Avenue in Hendersonville. Last October while sitting on her porch a Rottweiler attacked her and then attacked her Chinese Pug. The dog had been riding in the back of a pickup truck and had jumped out of the truck. The attack also broke her glasses. Her dog did live after visiting the Vet. and having his neck sewed up. She never received any compensation from the dog=s owner and the Rottweiler is still running loose.
She thanked Chief Donnie Parks for asking that the City be included in the draft new ordinance.
Donna Dell - Ms. Dell spoke about the people (volunteers) who get called in the middle of the night to come get an injured animal. She thanked those people. She felt that person should be a paid Henderson County employee, that someone should be available around the clock to answer such calls.
Kim Kappler - Kim Kappler runs AAll Creatures Great and Small@. She is often the person who gets the call in the middle of the night about an injured animal.
Under possible amendment # 3 of the draft ordinance which would require dogs to be under restraint whenever off their owner=s property - she stated that would help considerably. If the dog were under restraint then he probably would not be in the middle of the road in the middle of the night to get hit by a car. However, this is still a very rural county and we would have to have quite a staff to enforce that law throughout the county.
She stressed that if the county offers 24 hour service to pick up injured animals, they would need to put money in their budget for Vet. bills for those animals and they can get quite steep.
She stated that her concern is that if this ordinance is put in effect there would be many animals put to sleep because of the leash law. We have a small shelter and a small shelter staff. It would be hard for this staff to enforce.
Barbara Stukis - Ms. Stukis stated that she was planning to talk about spay/neuter but that has pretty well been covered. She mentioned the need to address animals riding in the back of pickup trucks.
Russell Burrell - Mr. Burrell stated that the Parks and Recreation Department had asked for an amendment to add that the ordinance would be enforced on public property such as our parks.
William Devine - Mr. Devine asked the Commissioners to make stricter laws and to try to keep animals on their owners= property.
J.J. Leeds - Ms. Leeds is a resident of Flat Rock. She asked that consideration be given to the humane treatment of animals while they are being held and in their disposal.
Harrison Metzger - Mr. Metzger is a reporter for the Times News. He questioned whether there would be charges for the municipalities if they asked to be included in the new ordinance and asked the county to enforce the ordinance within their limits.
Chairman Hawkins stated that he could not answer that question at this time. He asked Ms. Beeker (County Attorney) to address that question.
Ms. Beeker answered that it would be up to the Board of Commissioners to make the decision regarding fees and terms of enforcement. Henderson County would work with the municipalities.
Chairman Hawkins made the motion to close the public hearing at 8:43 p.m. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Chairman Hawkins thanked all those in the audience and particularly those who had made their comments known to the Board this evening. He asked what the pleasure of the Board was at this time, whether they wished to take action this evening or ask the County Attorney to bring the ordinance back to the Board at a meeting in June with technical revisions.
Following discussion by the Board, Chairman Hawkins asked staff to bring back the ordinance with the technical revisions to a Board meeting in June for further Board discussion and action. The Board will likely have to address items out of all three phases. The amendment regarding municipalities will have to be considered and decided on. He feels the Board will particularly have to take a look at the spay/neuter program and leash law to begin with. The Board was in agreement. The Board will want to see the County Manager=s recommended budget prior to making any final decisions and the budget must be adopted by the end of June.
Chairman Hawkins made the motion to adjourn the meeting at 9:00 p.m. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Elizabeth W. Corn, Clerk to the Board Grady Hawkins, Chairman