The Aiken County Council is scheduled to again consider an overreaching animal ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. The most recent version of the proposal (as available on the county website at the time of the legislative alert) can be viewed here.
Concerns, commentary, and recommendations:
- Section 4-22 would require registration of a person—the owner of a dangerous animal—and not the animal determined to be dangerous. Such registration of the person and payment of fees must be renewed annually for as long as the person resides in the county, regardless if the dangerous animal remains in the possession of the person.
This section would require the person to provide identification of all other domestic animals housed at the owner’s residence and requires this information to be updated within 30 days any time there is any change. This would require a farmer to report each chick that hatched.
Individuals required to register would be subjected to unlimited inspections to “confirm the accuracy of the information submitted for registration, and to confirm that any animals included in the registration are properly confined.” This inspection requirement would encompass all animals, including animals not deemed dangerous and for which “proper confinement” of a dangerous animal is not defined.
Waiver of registration could be requested only after five years, even if the person immediately ceased to own or keep the animal deemed dangerous. Waiver of registration could be denied based on an “investigation” for “possible violations” of an animal offense—and not based on a conviction—by either the registrant or any person residing on the property.
Most problematically, a person convicted of a nuisance animal violation, including even a single incident of a barking dog, could be subjected to these same overreaching and intrusive registration and inspection requirements.
Accordingly, AKC recommends striking all proposed new sections regarding the registration and inspection of a person who owns or owned an animal determined to be dangerous or a nuisance animal.
- A definition of “animal mill” contains undefined terms. “Animal breeding operation” and “health of the animal” are undefined. Further, the definition conflates the care provided to an animal with a breeder’s balance sheet. We note that neither “low overhead” nor achieving “profitability” are indicative that a “breeding operation” disregards the health of an animal.
We believe the same standards of care and regard for the health of dogs should be required of every individual, animal enterprise, not-for-profit corporation, and group that keeps dogs or engages in the breeding, sale, or transfer of dogs. Therefore, we recommend this definition and reference thereto in Section 4-33(a)(6) be stricken. Further, we recommend full enforcement of reasonable provisions that require animals to be provided humane care, adequate food and water, and shelter. This will help ensure all animals in the county are provided proper care, regardless of the purpose for which the animal is kept.
- Section 4-33(a)(5) would criminalize failure to have any and every injury or illness experienced by an animal treated by a veterinarian, regardless of the severity or nature. The AKC advocates that dogs should be provided appropriate veterinary care. However, we recognize that not every injury or illness requires veterinary intervention, and many animal owners are capable of treating minor conditions. We recommend that this section be amended or stricken.
- Under Section 4-31(a), an animal found at large a second time in its lifetime would be declared a nuisance animal. AKC recommend that this be amended to provide that an animal found at large two or more times in a 24-month period may be considered a nuisance animal. An “escape artist” puppy might live to be 15 years old but should not considered a nuisance if at large behaviors cease; thus, this provision should include reasonable limitations.
In addition to the points above, AKC submitted additional comments and recommendations regarding other problematic sections of the proposed ordinance.
What You Can Do:
Animal owners in Aiken County are urged to immediately contact County Council members to politely express their concerns and to attend the meeting, if possible. It is vitally important that your County Council members hear from you and other animal owners who reside in the county.
The council meeting is scheduled for August 18, 2020, at 7:00 p.m., in the County Council Chambers, Third Floor, Aiken County Government Center, 1930 University Parkway, Aiken, SC 29801. Access is limited. Read the meeting notice, information about submitting commentary, and restrictions. The council meeting will be preceded by committee meetings and a work session.
County Council Contact Information:
Gary Bunker, Chairman
Kathy Rawls, District 1
Camille Furgiuele, District 2
Danny Feagin, District 3
Chuck Smith, District 4
Sandy Haskell, District 5
Phil Napier, District 6
L. Andrew Siders, District 7
Willar H. Hightower, Jr., District 8
For questions or additional information, including AKC’s full recommendations, please contact AKC Government Relations at 919-816-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.