Deeply flawed animal ordinance cries out for input from the public

Am I the only one in Richmond County who is upset and very angry about this new pet ordinance passed with the recommendation of Augusta Animal Services Director Sharon Broady and her misguided committee?

 

It’s an ordinance passed by arrogant Augusta commissioners without hardly any public input and passed, I think, during a heated presidential election so no one would notice. This is a terribly flawed ordinance that serves almost no worthwhile purpose, but does create much harm.

First, they tell us that this ordinance will encourage pet owners to spay or neuter their pets by charging an annual registration fee of $10 for pets that aren’t fixed and vaccinated. Note that this says “annual fee,” not a one-time fee. And we can only guess how much it will be next year and the years to come.

How is this fee going to accomplish what they say? Most owners, especially ones with moderate incomes or strapped with debt, will choose to pay $10 or skip registering their pets. After all, $10 is a lot less than paying maybe $150 for neutering just one dog.

Now, they are giving pet owners who have neutered or spayed their animals a break by not charging them this registration fee. That is, not this year. They say it is free, but they don’t mention next year or the years after. They hope they can sucker us into registering our pets simply to get us into a database for future taxes. And take note of this: They are telling us to register our pets at the Augusta Tax Commissioner’s office. Need I say more?

Next is the barking, howling and whining limits in this ordinance. In 1999 the Augusta Commission passed a very thoughtful noise ordinance that does not allow anyone to make, or allow to be made, any noise that bothers others, such as your next-door neighbor. This is a really good ordinance for shutting up loud dogs.

So what do they do? This new ordinance allows a dog to bark, howl and whine beginning at 7 a.m. right under your bedroom window. It also allows dogs to do the same for two hours every day. Isn’t that nice? This is bad enough as is, but how are they going to enforce this if someone decides to let their dogs bark at 6 a.m. and for many hours at a time?

I reminded Sharon Broady that I have called Animal Services in the past about hurt animals on the highway and other dog problems, only to have them call me back three days later asking me if the problem still existed. I told her the police would have been there in 20 minutes. Her reply was that the police were better staffed than Animal Services. My question to her is: Why did she recommend Animal Services to be the enforcement agency for this if she didn’t have the staff? This new ordinance, passed with her recommendation, appears to gut a great ordinance concerning dogs barking that is already on the books.

Now, we go to the transportation part of this ordinance. It says no one can transport an animal in the trunk of a car or under the bed of a truck. How many people even do this? I didn’t even know there was a space large enough under a truck bed to do that. But what does it allow? It allows a dog to be transported in the back of an open pickup truck, which is the real danger. I can see some poor dog flying out into space only to land to its death.

Finally, the anti-tethering part of the ordinance is good, but it doesn’t go far enough. I asked Mrs. Broady why the ordinance didn’t condemn dogs being kept in tool sheds or small structures, never to see the light of day. That is worse than tethering. She said they considered that, but did nothing with it. I question her honesty.

The bottom line is this: This is the same arrogant group of Augusta commissioners who passed the stormwater tax on us, barely allowing us any say or vote on the issue. These big spenders want more of our money, and this annual pet registration fee helps them get more of it. But we have a voice concerning this issue, and that is calling them to express our feelings on what they are doing here. Unlike the stormwater tax, we have the final say with this issue. We don’t have to register our pets with this bunch.

This pet ordinance goes into effect today – Jan. 1.

(The writer is retired. He lives in Augusta.)

 

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