Joint Services panel reviews need for animal control ordinances

City Commissioner Sundai Stevenson (from left), City Manager Sammy Rich and County Commissioner Allison Watters discuss proposed animal control ordinances during a meeting of the Rome-Floyd County Joint Services Committee on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

The Rome City and Floyd County commissions will act this month to approve several new animal control ordinances. Members of the Joint Service Committee learned Tuesday that Cave Spring is also expected to follow suit in July.

One ordinance will prohibit long-term “tethering” where dog owners leave the animal outside chained within their yard. A second ordinance will seek to define the required amount of shelter for an animal, which is not defined in the existing ordinance. The third will address who pays the cost of the care for an animal while they are housed at Public Animal Welfare Services while an owner awaits trial.

“We’ve had animals up there for years,” said County Manager Jamie McCord. “They become institutionalized just waiting on trial, which is not good for the animal or the person going to trial.”

McCord said all three of the local governments have been looking at some of the animal control issues for months now and are finally ready to present revisions to the governing bodies later this month.

The issue of chaining animals outside 24-7 seems to be more of a problem in Rome and Cave Spring, where some folks use their dogs as guard animals.

In April, PAWS Director Jeff Mitchell told commissioners that tethering leads to anti-socialization and an increase in dog bites. Mitchell estimates that 65% of dog bite calls involve dogs that are chained up.

Payment for anticipated cost of impoundment is designed to mirror current state law and recoup some of the cost of housing animals.

Mitchell said one of the intended consequences of the ordinance is that it will help free up cage space.

The new ordinances will also include a definition of adequate shelter, with language that will focus on cleanliness and providing ample space for the animal to move around comfortably.

Several commissioners expressed interest in a spay-neuter ordinance. However, the lack of a low-cost option for those services in the area will put any changes relative to that issue on hold.

“We’ve got some more work to do on that,” said County Commission Vice Chair Allison Watters.

The ordinances — which are still being finalized, according to Rome City Attorney Andy Davis — will be placed on first reading at the county meeting June 8 and the city meeting June 14. Public hearings and a final vote will be conducted by the county on June 22 and by the city on June 28.

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