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Halifax County is a step closer to having regulations which would ban the tethering of unattended dogs.

The proposed ordinance will come back to county commissioners at their December 2 meeting for a second reading, County Attorney Glynn Rollins said during Monday night’s board meeting.

The board approved the first reading of the ordinance by a 5-1 measure, with Commissioner Rives Manning voting against it.

Manning said after the meeting, “I feel like it penalizes the small person who doesn’t have adequate funds to build a fence.”

Commissioners have been grappling with the issue since last year when PETA offered a two-year grant to defray the cost of hiring an additional animal control officer to enforce the amended ordinance as well as expenses related to that position.

Under the terms of the grant, PETA would have given the county $122,280 over two years. The first installment would have been for $75,610 and then one for $46,670.

A deadlock last December pulled the matter from consideration.

The new ordinance discussed Monday does not involve PETA, although county Health Director Bruce Robistow said the organization doesn't plan to stop coming to the county to check on the welfare of animals and provide straw and bedding for them. “They’ve provided dog houses, spaying and neutering and spent well over $2 million in the years they’ve been here. They’re to be commended for that,” he said this morning.

Robistow told the board there will be a half-position added. 

The person in that position will  not only be responsible for enforcement but will also, along with the other animal control officers, be responsible for the educational components of the ordinance as well as assessing penalties. The penalty for tethering an unattended animal is proposed at $150.

The health director explained while the ordinance, if approved on the second reading, would go into effect January 1, there would be a six-month educational and communication period where the regulations would be explained to the public. Also during that period warnings would be given in addition to access to resources. During that time there would be no penalties assessed.

The ordinance also addresses hunting dogs and states nothing in the chapter "is intended to be in conflict with the general statutes relating, restricting, authorizing or otherwise affecting dogs while used in lawful hunting."

While the proposal states it "shall be unlawful to tether an unattended dog outdoors, including hunting dogs," the regulations say, "the prohibition when or where dogs may run loose shall not apply to hunting dogs when they are being used for lawful hunting purposes."

The ordinance addressed the manner in which outdoor dogs should be housed — in a penned area enclosed by a fence of height and material sufficient to keep a dog from escaping.

For dogs that weigh less than 30 pounds, the enclosed area "shall have a minimum enclosed space of not less than 6-feet by 6-feet and a height of not less than 5 feet."

For dogs which weigh 30 pounds or more, the enclosed area "shall have a minimum enclosed space of not less than 10-feet by 10-feet and a height of not less than 6 feet."

Commissioner Marcelle Smith said he was pleased with the proposal. “You’ve been back several times before. We all want to make sure we do what’s best for the citizens and those who can’t speak for themselves.”

Robistow said the ordinance wasn’t targeting a specific breed or person. “We need to protect the public health.”