Enquirer Herald

York County Council mulls animal laws, final budget Monday

The York County Council will put finishing touches on the county’s 2012-1013 budget and discuss possible changes to the county’s animal control rules Monday night.

Discussions about the county’s animal control laws come after the council rejected proposed changes at its last meeting. The council may recommend putting more enforcement tools in the existing law, Chairman Britt Blackwell said Friday.

Some councilmen, including Blackwell, opposed changes two weeks ago because proposed regulations weren’t enforceable, he said. While the proposed changes “might feel good,” they lack “teeth,” he said.

The rejected proposals aimed to reduce the number of unwanted pets and identify the locations of large populations of animals by requiring pet owners with five or more cats or dogs to register for free with the county. The proposals also would have required tethered female dogs be spayed.

Other changes supported by most council members were aimed at removing from the York County Sheriff’s Office the burden of dealing with large animals.

Blackwell hopes the council brings ideas Monday for how to improve the law’s enforcement tools, he said. He’s asked county staff members to see what state laws exist that might be incorporated.

He also gave a preview of an idea he plans to propose, one he said would significantly strengthen the county’s tethering law. Limiting pet owners to two tethered animals and requiring them to register with the county would provide animal control officers with an enforceable law, he said.

That would address the problem of the “pit bull factories” associated with dog fighting and cruelty cases--the real target of animal laws, he said. He said it is difficult to enforce a current law that limits the weight of a chain used to tether an animal.

Just looking over a fence from a patrol car, it’s difficult to tell how heavy a tether is, and “Nobody's going to be walking out with scales,” he said.

Blackwell hopes the council can decide on a direction at Monday’s meeting, allowing county staff to prepare a new proposal for consideration at their July meeting.

County Manager Jim Baker said Friday that staff members will be looking to the county council for direction on how to move forward with revisions to the animal law.

Budget faces final hurdle

The county budget up for consideration Monday contains a 3 percent merit raise for employees. It also includes $35,000 for an appreciation picnic for York County’s volunteer firefighters and board and commission members, though the event may not cost that much, Baker said.

It’s been several years since employees received a raise, and the volunteer picnic was also suspended for two years.

Other changes include about $108,000 to create a new court for drunk-driving related offenses. The new DUI court would help the county continue efforts to process DUI cases, which have been backlogged across the state, while relieving magistrates of the responsibility of disposing of those cases, Baker said.

Another item includes money to improve the Sheriff’s Office firing range, which officials say is worn and also in need of upfitting for safety reasons.

The council will discuss and incorporate any changes in the budget before considering final approval Monday.