Enquirer Herald

York County Council passes budget with perks, starts over on animal law

The York County Council on Monday passed its $87 million budget with employee pay raises and a volunteer picnic, and returned a plan to revise its animal laws back to square one.

Earlier this month, the council read for the first time proposed changes to its animal law aimed at giving animal control officers more authority to enforce laws while curbing the unwanted pet population.

The proposal would have incorporated existing state laws governing large animals and nuisance pets so that animal control officers, who aren’t law enforcement officers, could enforce state laws instead of having to call a sheriff’s deputy.

Eight months in committee, the plan was rejected in a 4-3 vote this month because it contained new laws that those who rejected it said would be ineffective. Those measures would have required pet owners with five or more dogs or cats to register with the county and spay tethered female dogs to prevent them from having unwanted litters from stray males.

On Monday, the council debated the merits of the rejected proposal, and decided to send the plan back to the committee, which will draft a new proposal, incorporating the measures the council favored.

Chairman Britt Blackwell, who had hoped to have a new proposal for consideration at the council’s sole meeting in July, pushed the council to make a move, whether that meant deciding on some changes to the ordinance or moving on with no changes.

Blackwell suggested the council consider limiting tethering to two animals, a rule that would have targeted dog-fighting operations and would have been more clearly defined and easier to enforce. But he also told the council even though he personally thinks tethering is “wrong” and “tough on the dog,” he didn’t want to push his opinion in his vote.

About a dozen people were on hand to hear the council’s discussion and some addressed the council.

Asking the council to reconsider proposals they rejected, Susan Shannon, a pediatric occupational therapist who has rehabilitated children mauled by dogs, asked the council to think about many thousands of dollars are spent euthanizing unwanted animals.

As someone who keeps many bit bulls tethered on his property, Joseph Neal of York said the problem is with strays and “unwanted” pets, not his dogs which are competition animals and “wanted animals.” He asked the council to “target ... dog fighters” directly if that’s the problem.

Bump Roddey, who chairs the committee revising the animal law, said he and other committee members will set a date to meet soon. The objective will be to put together a pared-down version of the previous plan that focuses on “finding ways to crack down on people who don’t treat their animals properly,” Roddey said.

After the meeting, York County Animal Control Supervisor Steve Stuber said the council is “beginning to get a little better understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

The next step will be to revisit the proposal, and try to come up with “a reasonable request,” he said.

Budget passes with perks

The council passed its more than $87 million budget with 3-percent merit raises for county employees and an appreciation picnic for county volunteers, despite an effort to leave the picnic out of the budget.

Councilmen Curwood Chappell and Eric Winstead opposed the picnic as a waste of taxpayers’ money and unnecessary for thanking volunteers whose reward is helping others.

Councilman David Bowman said the picnic was like a “thank you note” sent to show appreciation – not expected but appreciated. Roddey said the $35,000 was a bargain compared to the time volunteers dedicate to the county.