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Residents address commission regarding “leash law” ordinance

Residents throughout the community spoke for or against a proposed “leash law” ordinance that could affect county residents during a public hearing Monday hosted by the Chilton County Commission.

More than 40 people attended the hearing, which started at 5 p.m. in the commission room at the Chilton County Courthouse.

Those in attendance were asked prior to the hearing to sign their names on a piece of paper indicating if they were “for” or “against” a section of the Code of Alabama that is commonly referred to as a “leash law.”

A copy of the law was passed out to everyone in the room, and Commission Chairman Allen Caton clarified before residents addressed the commission that the ordinance did not mean every resident would have to keep their animals on a leash.

“I don’t know why it is called a leash law,” Caton said. “It is more of a law where you keep your animals on your property.”

The section of the code being discussed on Monday 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 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 was given the list of signatures and called out the names on the list, allowing everyone the opportunity to speak, if they wanted to, for two minutes to commissioners.

Caton said there were 23 signatures on the “in favor” sheet and 20 signatures on the “opposed” list.

Not everyone present at the meeting spoke publicly to the commission.

Several individuals spoke out against the ordinance citing the fact that the ordinance would affect everyone in the county and possibly not control irresponsible pet owners.

Denise Evans said she didn’t think a leash law is what the county needs and suggested the county enforce a “reckless endangerment” law.

“We should have sheriff’s deputies enforcing this statute instead of passing a new law,” Evans said.

Kenneth Moates said he was opposed to the leash law, and said it seemed to him that the problem Chilton County was facing was with the owners of the animals, not the dogs.

“I raise Beagles and I have had numerous Beagles killed,” Moates said. “The problem has always been the people who own the other dogs, not the dogs who killed my Beagles. Any responsible individual who has a dog and that dog gets out of line knows they should do something about it.”

Several other individuals said they didn’t think a leash law for county residents should be adopted due to the fact many live in the county to let their dogs “roam” about.

Linda Vanderslice said she was in favor of the ordinance being adopted and told commissioners she has a neighbor who owns more than 10 dogs.

“We can’t go to our mailbox; we have to drive in our car because the dogs come over and tried to bite my son,” Vanderslice said. “The police have told us to simply shoot the dogs, but if we shoot them, then we have to deal with the neighbors.”

One resident said he lives with his family on a road where he is no longer able to walk or ride bikes due to multiple dogs cornering his family.

“This law that is being proposed says the person will be fined $2 to $50 and that doesn’t sound like much that would keep anyone from doing anything,” he said.

Other individuals spoke out citing issues with dog attacks or neighbors who continue acquiring multiple animals and letting them roam about.

Once the residents finished addressing the commission, Caton allowed commissioners to voice their opinions about the proposed ordinance.

“I am not for us doing nothing,” Commissioner Shannon Welch said. “I think this is a poorly written law. I would like to hear about a nuisance law, something that is different where your animals can roam free, but on the other side of that, if your neighbor has a pit bull that attacks a poodle, there is a way to do something to the owner of the pit bull.”

Commissioner Joseph Parnell echoed Welch’s statements about the ordinance being “poorly written,” saying he didn’t think the ordinance would meet the needs of residents living in Chilton County.

“We are limited in what we can do as a commission as far as what laws we can enact,” Parnell said. “We are only given certain laws, and this so-called ‘leash law’ is the only law available to us.”

Parnell suggested commissioners looking into the process of writing a bill and getting Rep. Jimmy Martin to present it in the upcoming 2015 Alabama Legislative session.

“We could do this, and it wouldn’t be a law that affects everyone in the county,” Parnell said.

Commissioner Bobby Agee said he appreciated everyone showing up and voicing their concerns and opinions about the matter.

“I just want to thank you all for taking part in your county government,” Agee said. “There are going to be people who will be for this being passed and there will be people against this being passed. We will not satisfy everyone. But, what is the best thing for the majority of the people in this county is something we will consider.”

Caton also thanked everyone for the interest shown regarding the ordinance.

“The commission heard a lot tonight, and we have some decisions we need to make,” Caton said. “We are planning on having a work session to sit down and discuss what we have heard tonight. We have to have something. I am not in favor of the leash law like it is written because it is too vague, but I have no idea what we will do.”

There was no date set during the public hearing for a work session. The public hearing ended shortly before 6 p.m. when the regularly scheduled Chilton County Commission meeting started.

For more from Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting, check a future edition of The Clanton Advertiser or visit www.clantonadvertiser.com.