Animal complaints prompt town to enforce leash law more strictly

Published 4:09 pm Friday, June 14, 2013

As the summer sets in, Maplesville officials are urging residents to help them keep animal complaints to a minimum by obeying the town’s leash law.

Street department superintendent Kenny Barrett told council members Monday that animal complaints had increased significantly in the last month, with one dog bite reported to the police department earlier in June.

As a result, Barrett said the leash law would be enforced more strictly than it has been in the past.

Complaints range from residents within town limits encountering non-domesticated animals, such as coyotes, to residents encountering domesticated animals, including dogs and cats, that pose a danger to an individual’s safety on private property or public property such as a park.

Although he was unsure why, Barrett said the town’s animal complaints usually increase in the summertime each year, especially with domesticated pets like dogs and cats.

“Most of our complaints are dogs,” Barrett said. “Some coyotes are expected, but mostly it’s domesticated pets. People just let them out and run.”

In addition to the threats dangerous animals pose to residents of all ages, answering animal complaints can be a time-consuming task for Barrett and police officers.

“It’s just an everyday thing,” Barrett said. “We set traps somewhere every day because of resident complaints.”

When a resident calls town hall about a nuisance animal on or near his or her property, Barrett, a police officer or both must go to the area and set a trap to catch the animal.

Barrett said the traps do not harm the animals as they are simply enclosures that contain food to attract animals into the enclosure.

If the animal appears to be a domesticated pet, Barrett said the town holds the animal in a pin for up to 24 hours as he tries to locate the owner.

If the owner cannot be located, the town transports the animal to the Chilton County Humane Society in Clanton.

The humane society charges the town about $45 per animal dropped off.

The town must pay the drop-off fee for every animal and is reimbursed only when an owner pays the fee to pick up the animal from the shelter.

Barrett said the town has picked up more than 50 dogs this year to be taken to the humane society, only a handful of which have been retrieved by owners.

In the last six months, Maplesville has probably paid more than $2,000 in humane society drop-off fees, Barrett said.

“We take more animals that are not claimed than are claimed,” Barrett said. “If they don’t want to claim them, we can’t force them to claim them.”

Ordinance No. 139, which prohibits non-domestic animals and dangerous animals considered nuisances, defines “dangerous animals” as those that have: caused bodily injury or disfigurement to a person; engaged in an attack on a person possibly resulting in danger to his or her personal safety; inflicted or attempted to inflict bodily injury to a person or other animal; exhibited unusually aggressive behavior, such as an attack on another animal; or bitten one or more person(s).

Ordinance No. 139 was adopted on July 12, 2011, following previous ordinances establishing the leash law. It provides a more extensive description of “dangerous” animals, both domesticated and non-domesticated, and includes dogs, cats, reptiles and snakes.

The town’s first ordinance addressing animal control was Ordinance No. 113, signed and effective beginning Feb. 13, 1995.

The ordinance stated that dogs have to be inoculated, or vaccinated, and are required to wear shots tags.

On May 9, 2005, the town adopted Ordinance No. 128, which added to the previous ordinance that “dangerous” dogs must be restrained.

Barrett said the “dangerous” classification is not limited to specific breeds of dogs and can apply to any animal displaying signs of a threatening nature to a person or animal.

According to the current ordinance (No. 139) addressing the leash law, domesticated animals must be on a leash or kept in a fenced yard.

If a dog bites a person and the owner cannot show proof of the dog’s shots, the dog will be quarantined at a veterinary clinic for a period of time during which the owner may approve for rabies and/or other vaccinations to be administered if necessary.

The town issues a written warning to the owner of an animal upon the first complaint involving the animal.

Upon the second complaint involving the same animal, the owner will receive a written citation, orders to appear in court and could pay fines plus court costs up to $198.

“If people are going to go out and get pets, they need to take care of them,” Barrett said. “A dog is a dog; they have no sense of right or wrong. It’s the animals that pay the price for the owners’ irresponsibility.”

Animal complaints involving bites should be reported immediately to the Maplesville Police Department.

To report all other animal complaints, call Maplesville Town Hall at (334) 366-4211.