Dog licensing measure ‘scrapped’
By Steven Bradley
WALHALLA — A proposed ordinance that would have required Oconee pet owners to have dogs licensed and microchipped has been “scrapped” prior to reaching full county council, according to its chairwoman.
Edda Cammick said at this week’s regular meeting that the ordinance was designed “to offset some of the costs for (the county spay/neuter program), which right now we spend $80,000 a year on.”
But she told The Journal Thursday “the hunting community had effectively lobbied council” against proceeding with the measure.
County administrator Scott Moulder said county offices had received numerous calls this week with concerns that the ordinance was on the verge of being finalized, which he characterized as entirely inaccurate.
“It’s merely just been casual discussion at committee level, and the particular draft ordinance was just to be used as a discussion point,” he said. “It was not presented as a proposal for approval.”
At a council committee meeting last month, Cammick said she had collaborated with Oconee Humane Society and Animal Control representatives on how to license pets in the county to help control the county’s stray animal population and contribute funds to the spay/neuter program.
Various ordinances throughout the country were reviewed, according to Cammick, and used in drafting an Oconee County Dog and Cat Population Control Ordinance.
Cammick said several veterinarians around the area were also contacted to ensure that the county would not be “competing” with them if the decision were made to license and microchip pets.
“(The veterinarians) were in favor of this,” she said. “We talked to a lot of people, and it was really a major undertaking.”
The draft ordinance included in the backup material for the April 25 and May 9 budget, finance and administration committee meetings would have required application for registration to be made within 30 days after obtaining a dog six months of age or older, regardless of whether the animal had been spayed or neutered.
Applicants would have been required to pay a $20 first-time licensing fee per dog, or $10 if the animal was already microchipped. Service dogs and government-owned dogs used for law enforcement would have been exempt from the fees.
“Unaltered” dogs — or dogs not spayed or neutered — would have been subject to a $40 annual renewal fee, while those that had been surgically rendered incapable of reproduction would cost their owners $10 per year in renewal fees.
The ordinance would have also included permitting fees for conformation kennels, non-kennel puppy breeding and pet shops. Veterinarian offices, boarding kennels, grooming parlors and other animal rescue establishments would not be subject to the fees.
Dog owners who failed to register any animal after a warning, or any other violation of the ordinance, would have been deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $262.50 and up to 30 days in jail.
All fees and fines collected via the ordinance would have been designated for the funding of, first, its enforcement and then to the operation of the county’s animal shelter.
While the ordinance appeared to have support at the committee level, Moulder said Thursday it had never progressed beyond “the developmental discussion phase.”
“I would suspect, based on the reaction, that this particular discussion will slow down some,” he said.
Cammick said she received several calls and emails on the subject — some in favor of the ordinance and some against — and only three from her district, District 1, or the Salem area.
“The hunters that called were incredibly polite, eloquent and passionate,” she said. “They made arguments I hadn’t heard before, so I learned a few things.”
But Cammick said those in favor of controlling the county’s stray population and helping to fund its spay/neuter program “also have a point.”
“I know my neighborhood is a dumping ground for unwanted pets,” she said. “All my cats and dogs are ‘dumpees.’ … So the question remains, what to do?”