The Liberty County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday discussed an aggressive overhaul to its animal control ordinance that would bring it in line with new state requirements.
The revision would alter how the animal control department views, handles and processes dangerous dogs, Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel said.
Sprinkel said he’s taken a survey of other counties and it sounds as though Liberty is the first to tackle integrating rules brought by HB 717, which amends Article 2 of Chapter 8 of Title 4 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.
“None of the counties have adopted this yet,” Sprinkel said. “We’re kind-of on the cutting edge … but this has been in effect since the first of July, so we should have already adopted this.”
The local ordinance transitions from a few paragraphs to more than 10 pages of requirements and calls from a change in name from “vicious animals” to “dangerous dog control.”
The change would increase the number of days a dog must be impounded before it is “either destroyed or offered for adoption.”
Owners shall be notified to appear within 10 days instead of seven, and unregistered animals would be held for five days instead of three.
The minimum punishment for a violator of the ordinance would increase from $25 to $50, and penalties increase from no more than $500 to possible jail time not longer than three days.
The law also would require current animal-control officer Randy Durrence to be appointed as the dangerous-dog officer. It also would require creation of an appointed oversight board to hold hearings, Sprinkel said. The board could be created jointly with other municipalities, or the governing authorities could designate a local board of health to hear such arguments.
District 4 Commissioner Pat Bowen asked Durrence whether the law would help him.
“It helps more in the fact of making people take care of the problems more,” Durrence said. “Before, we took a report or something … but by this vicious dog (ordinance), they will have to abide by certain requirements, caging, fencing, muzzles — the whole nine yards.”
Bowen noted that it would give the animal-control office more leeway to approach animal owners.
“Yes, we’ll have more authority,” Durrence said.
The board is expected to further discuss and take action in a future meeting. Sprinkel said other area municipalities and other counties are curious to see what Liberty adopts “because everybody’s looking for a model.”
In other business Tuesday, the BoC also:
• Tabled a request from the Cultural and Historic Committee to amend its policy and allow non-residents who work or have a vested interest in the county to serve on the board. The request came after the board denied the appointment of Flemington clerk Terri Willett, a Long County resident. The commission opted not to act on the single board but rather to look at each appointed board so there are consistent eligibility requirements.