County to hold public hearing to consider adopting leash law

Published 5:04 pm Monday, December 1, 2014

The Chilton County Commission is seeking the public’s comments for a proposed bill that focuses on dogs running at large.

Commissioners voted on Nov. 24 to schedule a public hearing for Jan. 12, 2015 at 5 p.m. to ask for the public’s input on whether they should pass an ordinance adopting a state code section 3-1-5 of the code of Alabama 1975, which is commonly referred to as a “leash law.”

Initially, commissioners voted to schedule the public hearing for Dec. 8, but county administrator Connie Powell said the meeting would have to be scheduled for the first meeting in January due to giving the public 30 days notice of the hearing.

After a lengthy discussion on Nov. 24, commissioners came to the conclusion it would be best to ask for input from the community before adopting something that would affect every resident living in Chilton County.

Although the topic has been discussed numerous times throughout the years during commission meetings, the issue of Chilton County having no way to enforce animals running wild in the county came up at the Nov. 10 commission meeting.

Doris Guin, a resident who lives on County Road 770 in the Oak Grove Community, addressed commissioners with a detailed and often chilling account of how she has struggled with a pack of dogs near her home.

Guin’s main objective for approaching the commission was to ask if it would consider adopting a portion of the code of Alabama 1975 pertaining to dogs running at large.

Through a series of events throughout the course of a year, Guin’s dog was attacked by a pack of dogs owned by a neighbor, but later survived.

However, the 70-pound-lab owned by Guin’s family, was later mauled and killed by the pack of dogs.

Guin told commissioners it could have easily been a child who was attacked.

Commissioners asked county attorney John Hollis Jackson to look into an ordinance the commission could pass dealing with dogs running at large.

Jackson shared the “leash law” code with commissioners on Nov. 24 and told them it would require them adopting the section of the code if they chose to proceed.

The code states: “Every person owning or having in charge any dog or dogs shall at all times confine such dog or dogs to the limits of his own premises or the premises on which such dog or dogs is or are regularly kept. Nothing in this section shall prevent the owner of any dog or dogs or other person or persons having such a dog or dogs in his or their charge from allowing such dog or dogs to accompany such owner or other person or persons elsewhere than on the premises on which such dog or dogs is or are regularly kept. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $2 nor more than $50.

“This section shall not apply to the running at large of any dog or dogs within the corporate limits of any city or town in this state that requires a license tag to be kept on dogs nor shall this section apply in any county in this state until the same has been adopted by the county commission of such county.”

Several commissioners expressed concerns with some of the language in the code dealing with keeping animals on the person’s premises where they could be subject to a fine if the animal owner is found violating the code.

“I just think this is pretty far reaching,” commissioner Joseph Parnell said. “If your dog is off your property and you are outside the city limits, you could be fined for it. If you dog goes outside to use the restroom, you could be charged money for that. There is something that needs to be done for what has happened, but I don’t like punishing everyone in the county for three or four bad neighbors.”

Jackson told commissioners the only way for them to address the issue of dogs terrorizing neighbors, with a landowner being terrorized and a pet being slaughtered, like Guin’s situation, would be to adopt the code.

“This would at least give something to someone who was in the situation of the person at the last meeting,” Jackson said.

Parnell said out of 44,000 individuals in the county, he estimated there were probably 10 individuals having animal issues.

“There needs to be something in between,” Parnell said. “There needs to be something that offers protection, but doesn’t affect everyone.”

Commissioner Heedy Hayes said this is not the first time the issue has come up.

“This is not an easy situation,” Hayes said. “We have had this come up before. I think we need to look at other counties who have adopted this code and see what kind of problems they have run into with it.”

Guin, who was present at the Nov. 24 meeting, told commissioners she had researched neighboring counties and found out that Shelby, Elmore, Bibb and Autauga had all adopted the code.

“I just have to ask how long do you wait until someone is killed?” Guin said. “I can’t even walk to my mailbox. This issue affects more than 10 people. I think if something happened to a child, you as a commission would be held responsible to the people of this county.”

Commissioner Bobby Agee said he was concerned with who was going to enforce the code if commissioners chose to adopt it.

Commission Chairman Allen Caton suggested holding a public hearing to hear what the public had to say regarding the situation.

“I feel like this needs to be something that gives people the opportunity to speak before we consider passing this,” Caton said. “We represent the whole county and need to hear what they desire.”

Welch made the motion to schedule a public hearing seeking public comments for the code an hour before the commission meeting that will be held Jan. 12, 2015.

Agee seconded the motion with Parnell, Hayes, Welch, Caton and Agee voting in favor. Commissioner Joseph Headley opposed. Commissioner Greg Moore was absent from the meeting.