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York County leaders will revisit proposed changes to York County’s animal rules aimed at empowering animal control officers – while more controversial options including restrictions on tethered female dogs and “bully breeds” will be up for discussion and public input in coming weeks.
A new revision, which the council will consider when it meets Monday night, contains points endorsed by animal control officials, including new definitions for “animal,” “adequate shelter” and “dangerous animal.”
The changes will make it easier for animal control officers to enforce existing laws without involving law enforcement, said Steve Stuber, county animal control director.
The revised proposal would redefine “animal” to include all non-human animals so that animal control officers don’t have to call the sheriff’s office to assist with, for example, loose livestock.
Changes to “adequate shelter” would include specific examples of what doesn’t meet the definition of adequate shelter – motor vehicles, garbage cans, cardboard boxes, plastic or metal barrels, animal travel crates or carriers; or underneath houses, decks, steps or stoops or other structures.
“We tried to include items that make up the volume of the issues we have today,” Stuber said. “It gives the public a clearer understanding of what is not acceptable.”
But animal control officials also have prepared a list of other possible rules – some new, some previously considered – that could address problems with overpopulation of unwanted pets and aggressive animals.
In a 4-3 vote in June, the York County Council rejected a previous revision of the county’s animal law, citing too many new regulations.
Councilman Bump Roddey, chairman of a committee overseeing changes to the animal law, said the revision is a good start, but asked, “how does this in turn reduce the number of dogs and cats that we’re putting down monthly?”
If the council adopts the law with its new definitions Monday, the proposal would need to pass two more votes and a public hearing before taking effect.
County Manager Jim Baker said at its first September meeting, the council likely will continue discussion of what other provisions, if any, members would like to add. A public hearing and second reading will likely follow later that month.
Options up for discussion
One new option would define a “bully” breed as a “pit bull type” of dog, Stuber said.
Council members could prohibit breeding “bully” breeds and require different enclosures for them.
A “high percentage” – around 40 percent – of the dogs that come through the York County Animal Shelter are the “pit bull type,” Stuber said, adding that “something needs to be done about it.
“It appears we’re cleaning up the mess for the fighting industry every year.”
It’s unclear what support the provisions would have.
Chairman Britt Blackwell said he’s trying to “keep an open mind” about the council’s options, especially after hearing the animal shelter’s veterinarian detail at a meeting last week some of the cases animal control experiences.
“I understand that a lot of people have what’s called the bully breeds and they’re great pets and they take proper care of them, but they have been a problem,” he said. “It’s a reality that we have to deal with.”
Other options the council has seen before, including an unpopular plan to require pet owners with five or more animals to register them with the county.
Another would require female tethered dogs, easy targets for male dogs looking for mates, to be spayed to prevent unwanted litters, Stuber said.
It’s a provision animal advocates like Alicia Schwartz with the Committee for Responsible Pet Ownership will likely push. Roaming dogs also create a public safety problem, she said.
“We really want no tethering, but we’ll be very happy” if chained females have to be spayed, she said. “It will kind of make people accountable.”