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The city attorney suggested minor tweaks to Raleigh’s animal control ordinances after one neighborhood said the existing rules left them vulnerable to dangerous dogs.
Attorney Tom McCormick released his long-awaited report on Tuesday, eight months after city council members asked him to review the rules with animal control officers and recommend any necessary changes.
Last April, a neighborhood off North Raleigh Boulevard complained of a series of dog attacks that left pets and people injured. Neighbors said the city’s current rules – less punitive than the county’s ordinances in some respects – leave them vulnerable to the area’s vicious dogs.
Roosters could be next
A discussion of animal control policies led to an unlikely topic for the Raleigh City Council on Tuesday: rooster regulations.
It turns out there’s nothing on the books that prevents Raleigh residents from keeping the birds. But an ill-timed “cock-a-doodle-doo” might run afoul of noise ordinances, and individual roosters could be declared a public nuisance, the city attorney said.
Councilman John Odom said he’s received three calls about noisy roosters in the past year. City staff also received a complaint from the Boylan Heights neighborhood, where the rooster’s owner was willing to work with neighbors and give up the bird.
Odom asked city staff to draft a rooster ban – already in effect in neighboring cities such as Cary that allow backyard chickens.
Councilwoman Mary Ann Baldwin said she wasn’t sure new rules are needed. “Do you want to be the rooster killer in Raleigh?” she joked to Odom. “Don’t you think it’s a little extreme to ban roosters?”
“In a city, in close quarters?” responded Councilman Randy Stagner.
The council’s Law and Public Safety Committee will take up the issue again at a future meeting.
McCormick’s recommendation doesn’t change the penalties for the owners of attacking dogs, but the adjusted rules would add parts of state statutes to make an animal control officer’s options more clear. The new ordinance would explicitly say the officers can confiscate “dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs” and keep them at the owners’ expense. It also includes the state’s definition for dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs.
“We thought it would be helpful to put these things in here,” McCormick said, adding that animal control officers have always had those powers.
He said the animal control department will make sure its officers understand their options following a dog attack. “It became somewhat apparent that the problem was not with the ordinance,” McCormick said. “We thought that we maybe needed to do more training and maybe change up the way we do that.”
When Teresa Washburn’s Chihuahua was seriously injured by a loose St. Bernard from next door, animal control wouldn’t take the offending dog, she said. “He said she refused to give it up,” Washburn recalled. “They should have no right to refuse.”
McCormick didn’t suggest any changes to Raleigh’s fines. When a dog bites another domestic animal or a person, the fine is up to $500 for a criminal violation, with civil penalties from $50 to $250. Wake County fines the owners of dogs that bite humans $500 for the first offense, with the dog euthanized after a 10-day waiting period for possible appeal. For dangerous dogs that kill or wound other domestic animals under the county’s jurisdiction, the consequences are the same, but fines are $250 for the first offense and $500 thereafter.
Washburn said she’d like the city to simply adopt Wake County’s rules. She supports bigger fines and wage garnishing to ensure dangerous dog owners are punished.
The full city council will likely take up McCormick’s recommendations later this month, and the East Citizens Advisory Council – where last year’s attacks took place – has formed a committee to review the rule changes. Meanwhile, Washburn said she’s afraid to go for walks and is considering leaving the neighborhood.
“I thought about getting a gun – not to protect myself, but to protect myself from dogs,” she said. “This is too slow for me.”