County commissioners voted recently three to two in favor of the proposal. Voting in favor were commissioners Billy Croker, David Jarvis and Ray Barber. Voting against were Billy Williams and Frank Lott.
According to information supplied to the Standard:
Essentially, the ordinance is a form of countywide animal control. The legislature, which covers aspects of rabies control, is intended to deal more with animal nuisance and cruelty than disease control.
Georgia law directs that the Polk County Board of Health will appoint a County Rabies Control Officer, who would then enforce the Rabies code.
To pay this officer, according to the “Control of Rabies” outline submitted to the county commissioners, “the governing authority of each county is authorized to levy a fee not to exceed 50 cents for each dog .…to be collected by the veterinarian administering the anti-rabies vaccine.”
The Polk County Board of Health will handle rabies Control, as by Georgia law.
Because of budgeting conflicts, a Rabies Control Officer has yet to be appointed. While the ordinance is officially active, there is still no word as to who will enforce the new code. At this time, Officer Randall Braizer of the Polk County Police Department is the county ordinance officer.
In accordance with the Polk County Animal Ordinance, the board of commissioners will authorize “the establishment of an Animal Control Board.” But again, at present time, this board has not been appointed, but will eventually be appointed by the county commissioners.
Once the commissioners have chosen a board and the board chooses a County Animal Control Officer, there will be immediate need to house the confiscated animals.
The next step in the long process will be for the commissioners to vote on establishing a County Animal Control facility. Currently, both Cedartown and Rockmart have Animal Control facilities, but neither is in any shape to handle the additional animals brought about by a countywide Animal Control Unit.
The bylaws of the Animal Ordinance, which will be headed by the Animal Control Board, outline a variety of measures that, hopefully, will “require animal owners to be responsible and accountable for the actions, behavior, and condition of their animals.”
The ordinance also gives guidelines for the humane treatment of animals and the classification of dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs.
In the event that a dog severely harms a person (i.e., hospitalization), the dog will be confiscated by Animal Control and held at a licensed veterinarian’s office until the Animal Control Board has scheduled a hearing. The dog owner will pay any fees.
Within the last four years, animal cruelty has come into the Georgia spotlight after animal rights activists petitioned for cruelty charges to be raised from a misdemeanor to a felony.
The county ordinance requires a higher degree of responsibility of pet owners. It is now considered unlawful for owners living in the county to “refuse or fail to provide animals with sufficient food and clean water.”
Animal owners will be prosecuted for abandoning pets, whether it is on public or private property.
Those animals living completely outdoors should be provided with adequate bedding and shelter from the elements, which means giving it a doghouse or some other form of protection.
While dogs should be given shelter, they are not to be held in an area where it does not have access to “proper food, water, exercise, or ventilation.”
Also, both dogs and cats are expected to have up-to-date vaccinations and wear proper identification when wandering about on someone else’s property.
With the Animal Ordinance, Polk County will attempt to put a damper on local animal abuse by making it unlawful to maliciously harm an animal, be it domestic or wild. The ordinance regulates that it is illegal “to willfully or maliciously strike, beat, abuse, intentionally run down with a vehicle or otherwise engage unnecessary pain […] to an animal.”
When a vehicle strikes an animal, the driver must notify either Animal Control or the County Police.
There are exceptions to the cruelty regulations, such as if necessary force is needed to drive away vicious animals. While the ordinance hopes to eliminate unneeded animal suffering, the county does understand that citizens have a right to protect both themselves and their property.
It is all too common for animal-haters to maliciously poison a neighbor’s dog or cat. In many cases, an individual will leave bowls of anti-freeze or another hazardous chemical in the paths of free-roaming domestic animals.
It is now considered illegal for anyone to do so and citizens may file suit against neighbors conducting such heinous acts. Only a licensed veterinarian is allowed to administer any form of poison with the intent to end a life when it is properly deemed to be the most humane treatment.
An important issue covered by the ordinance is dog fighting. In the Polk County area, dog fighting has become a profitable industry.
Those conducting the fights make their money at no regard to the animal’s well being.
In many cases, when a dog is no longer an effective killer, the owner either kills the animal or abandons it to die.
Under the new guidelines, “it is unlawful to possess, keep, or train any animal with an intent to fight.” It will also be illegal “to build, make, and/or maintain a pit for fighting.”
County authorities have the right to arrest those who “encourage, instigate, promote, charge admission, assist, or watch fighting.”
What this means is that the ordinance places responsibility on the fighting dog owners and, essentially, anyone else involved with the “blood sport.”