Moultrie Observer

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April 2, 2014

More teeth in dog law

County approves an appeals board for dog owners

MOULTRIE — Colquitt County Commission put more teeth into provisions protecting the public from dangerous dogs Tuesday with the formation of a board to hear appeals from owners whose dogs are deemed unsafe.

Commissioners unanimously approved the appeals board, which will consist of John Peters, the county’s safety and zoning officer, County

Attorney Lester Castellow and a designee of the Colquitt County Health Department.

The county has the power to enforce the state’s Responsible Dog Ownership Law, passed in 2012, but in order to do so had to establish the appeals board, Castellow told commissioners during Tuesday night’s meeting.

That law combined dangerous and vicious dogs under the single piece of legislation.

 It defines a dangerous dog as one that causes a substantial puncture wound with its teeth, aggressive attacks that pose imminent threat of serious injury to a person or that kills another pet while off the owner’s property, according to a summary of the law.

A designation of dangerous dog includes one that inflicts a serious injury on a person or causes injury to a person attempting to escape attack.

Dogs deemed dangerous or vicious must be registered, secured in locked confinement on the owner’s property and may not be taken away from the owner’s property unless caged or leashed and under the immediate physical control of someone capable of preventing the dog from engaging people or other animals.

Owners of such dogs also must maintain a $50,000 liability insurance policy and place visible signs warning of the presence of a dangerous or vicious dog, Castellow said.

Don Flowers, executive director of the Humane Society of Moultrie-Colquitt County, told commissioners that seven bites of people in recent days indicates that the county should take steps to protect the public.

Castellow also recommended that commissioners at some point consider a nuisance-dog ordinance. He recommended that this ordinance apply only to those areas in the county that are zoned residential.

In the past, efforts to enact a “leash law” were unsuccessful because rural residents objected to them.

However, Castellow said limiting it to only residentially zoned property will limit it to a tiny fraction of the county. That should satisfy those who complained in the past and allow those in more remote areas of the county to maintain dogs for protection purposes.

“I’d estimate 1 percent of the county’s land mass is zoned residential,” he said during a telephone interview on Wednesday. “Ninety-nine percent of it is not.”

All of the county’s municipalities have nuisance-dog ordinances on the books.

If any of the smaller cities wished to enforce the state responsible owners’ law, the county’s appeals board also could hear those cases, Castellow said.

“They would have to do some things,” he said. “They would need to name some person who is responsible for and has the authority to enforce the dog law.”

The county’s zoning map is available by visiting http://www.ccboc.com/Dept/zoning.htm and clicking on “Current Zoning Map” at the bottom of the page.

 

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