A revised proposed animal ordinance is on the Aiken County Council agenda for Tuesday, October 20, 2020. The proposal could be discussed tomorrow and/or at a future county council meeting.
Among other requirements, the revised ordinance seeks to require registration with the county as an offender by any person convicted of a dangerous dog violation and would authorize ongoing and unlimited inspections of their property, regardless if they continue to own or keep the dangerous dog. It further would provide that a person convicted of a minor nuisance animal infraction could be sentenced to register as an offender and be subjected to both annual and unlimited additional inspections of the nuisance animal and the person’s private property.
The American Kennel Club thanks Aiken County personnel for their responsiveness to several concerns expressed by animal owners regarding previous drafts of the proposed ordinance. We note that the amended proposal still contains problematic provisions that include, but are not limited to:
As noted above, Section 4-22 would require registration of the owner of a dangerous animal—and not registration of the animal determined to be dangerous as provided under state law. Registration as an offender by the person and payment of fees would be renewed annually for as long as the person resides in the county, regardless if the dangerous animal remains in the possession or on the property of the person.
Further, a person convicted of a nuisance animal violation, such as a barking dog infraction, could be sentenced to these same overreaching and intrusive registration and inspection requirements.
Persons required to register would be subjected to mandatory annual inspections of their animal and property, as well as unlimited additional inspections at the discretion of the Director of the Aiken County Code Enforcement Department or the Director’s undefined “designee.” The purpose of the inspections would be to “confirm the accuracy of the information submitted for registration, and to confirm that any animals included in the registration are properly confined.”
Waiver of registration could be requested by a registrant after two years under certain conditions. The waiver could be denied based on any “investigation” for “possible violations” of an animal offense—and not based on a conviction—that involved either the registrant or a person residing on the property.
Section 4-33(a) would make it an offense for a person to permit a domestic animal to abuse a domestic animal. It is unclear how a violation of this provision would be determined.
Better solutions are available. The American Kennel Club (AKC) advocates that dog owners should be responsible for their dogs and supports laws that establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as “dangerous” based on stated, measurable actions; impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners; and establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs proven to be dangerous.
AKC recommends incorporating into county law the extensive provisions of South Carolina Code Title 47, Chapter 3, Article 13, “Regulation of Dangerous Animals,” Sections 14-3-710 through 14-3-770. AKC also recommends striking all sections of the proposed county ordinance regarding inspections and registration of a person who owns or owned an animal determined to be a dangerous or who owns or owned a nuisance animal.
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 extremely important that your County Council members hear from you and other animal owners who reside in the county.
The council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 20, 2020, at 7:00 p.m., in the County Council Chambers, Third Floor, Aiken County Government Center, 1930 University Parkway, Aiken, SC 29801.
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, please contact AKC Government Relations at 919-816-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.