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Public hearing to discuss leash law to be held Jan. 12

The Chilton County Commission will allow residents the opportunity to speak "for or against" a proposed "leash law" ordinance on Monday.

The Chilton County Commission will allow residents the opportunity to speak “for or against” a proposed “leash law” ordinance on Monday.

The Chilton County Commission will allow residents the opportunity to speak “for or against” a proposed “leash law” ordinance on Monday.

A public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 12 at 5 p.m. in the commission room at the Chilton County Courthouse (bottom floor) and will focus on an ordinance adopting a section of the code of Alabama, which is commonly referred to as a “leash law.”

Commission Chairman Allen Caton said on Thursday there will be guidelines for those wishing to address the commission during the hearing, such as those wanting to speak will be allowed two minutes each.

“There will be a clock to time everyone,” Caton said. “Typically, our policy says that individuals have five minutes to address the commission, but this is not a typical hearing.”

Caton said ideally, a representative could be selected from the “opposing” and “for” sides to address the commission.

“It would be nice if the two sides could get together and find a spokesperson,” Caton said.

The idea for a public hearing originated on Nov. 24, 2014, when commissioners came to the conclusion it would be best to ask for input from the community before adopting something that would affect every resident living in Chilton County.

Although the topic has been discussed numerous times throughout the years during commission meetings, the issue of Chilton County having no way to prevent animals running wild in the county came up at the Nov. 10 commission meeting.

If commissioners choose to adopt the “leash law” ordinance, those living in Chilton County could be faced with fines for not adhering to the code.

A common misconception with the code is the fact individuals think a dog would be forced to stay on a leash, Caton said.

Caton said he hopes to address this concern at the hearing and clarify the misconception with residents that the ordinance would not require dog owners to keep their dogs on a leash at all times.

“I have heard from people who think this means they would have to keep the dog on a leash at all times as opposed to just keeping the animal on your property” Caton said. “The problem with the ordinance as it stands is it is very vague and needs to be updated. I have heard from other counties who have adopted it that they have had some issues with it because it is vague.”

The code section 3-1-5 of the code of the Alabama 1975 states: “Every person owning or having in charge any dog or dogs shall at all times confine such dog or dogs to the limits of his own premises or the premises on which such dog or dogs is or are regularly kept. Nothing in this section shall prevent the owner of any dog or dogs or other person or persons having such a dog or dogs in his or their charge from allowing such dog or dogs to accompany such owner or other person or persons elsewhere than on the premises on which such dog or dogs is or are regularly kept. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $2 nor more than $50.

“This section shall not apply to the running at large of any dog or dogs within the corporate limits of any city or town in this state that requires a license tag to be kept on dogs nor shall this section apply in any county in this state until the same has been adopted by the county commission of such county.”

Caton does not anticipate commissioners taking a vote on Monday after the hearing, but rather plans to discuss the issue further after hearing input from the community.

“We will probably listen to everything and then have a work session to decide what we are going to do,” Caton said. “We will do something though. We have to make some tough decisions, and some decisions won’t always make everyone happy, but we will work to do what is best for the whole county.”