BEAR CREEK - Bear Creek’s animal control ordinance - which was voted into place by the town council in 2006 - has plenty of teeth in it, but town officials want to sink deeper into a major ongoing issue regarding dogs to get something done.
The issue of roaming dogs was addressed by Mayor Rob Taylor at the Monday, Sept. 19, Bear Creek Town Council meeting, urging something be done, especially after two young people and a town employee were bitten.
“We need to, for a lack of a better word, put some teeth into the dog ordinance. We are going to have to do something,” Taylor pointed out. “There are dogs dragging other people’s trash up in their yard, people trying to walk their dogs and being threatened by other animals.
“It is getting out of hand,” Taylor exclaimed. “I don’t understand why it has gotten to the point it has, but it has progressively gotten worse, with more and more folks letting dogs run at large.”
Taylor referred to a copy of the town’s animal control ordinance, which was adopted Aug. 7, 2006, and signed by then-mayor Drennon Veal and then-clerk Ava McCurley. The ordinance notes that dogs running at large in the corporate limits of Bear Creek is strictly prohibited.
The ordinance defines “running at large” as dogs found on the streets or highways not under leash or found on property not owned or controlled by the owner of such dog or person having charge or control of such dog.
The procedure on what to do in such situations is then explained in the ordinance. Anyone having a complaint about dogs running at large or being a public nuisance shall come to town hall and file a complaint in writing, the ordinance reads. The town will first notify the owner of the animal and give that owner an opportunity to rectify the situation, the ordinance reads. If a second complaint is filed, the animal will be picked up and impounded, the ordinance continues.
It is also unlawful for the owner or person having charge or control of any dog to knowingly permit or negligently allow such dog to run at large in the Town of Bear Creek and, in such case that a dog escapes from a fence, pen or leash, the owner or person having control of the dog shall immediately recapture or tie up the dog, the ordinance stated.
Fines, as listed in the ordinance, can be subject to change at the discretion of the mayor and council. Currently, the fines are: running at large first offense - $8 a day for board plus $25; second offense - $8 a day for board plus $50 and third offense - $8 a day for boarding plus $75.
The boarding charges are for animal control for upkeep of the animals, with additional monies going to the Town of Bear Creek, according to the ordinance.
Any person or corporation violating any terms of the ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction be fined no less than $25 and no more than $75 for each incident, according to the ordinance.
“We already have an ordinance in place,” Taylor told the council.
“I think it’s a pretty good one, too,” added council member Eric Loden.
“It has not been enforced as it should have been,” Taylor pointed out. “It’s getting to be a problem. Had (one of the attacks) been (on) a smaller child, it could have been really bad.
City employee bitten while on job
One of the dog incidents involved Morgan Long, an employee of the water department.
“It has really become a problem, not just in meter readings, but in normal job operations, with a lot of the dogs around town being more aggressive,” Long stated.
“One day, we were out reading meters. I walked up to one (meter) and, before I knew it, a dog came up behind me and bit me on the calf (of my leg),” Long pointed out. “It looked like a lab mix. It was pretty good size.”
Long took a section of water line and hit the dog on its snout in order for the aggressive dog to turn back, he stated.
Since dogs are hindering the jobs of city workers, Long stressed for animal owners to confine their dogs to their property in either the house or an outdoor pen.
“That allows not just us access to our meters, but the public (to) walk down the road without fear of getting bit,” Long pointed out.
Taylor said the council needs to consider the fines that are already in place and possibly make adjustments if situations with dogs or stray animals continue.
“I think, as far as the fines, we need to look at what other towns are doing and other counties, get ours in line with other municipalities and go from there,” Taylor suggested.
Police department dealing with complaints
Bear Creek Police Chief Doug Hallman noted within the past two weeks, the department has received calls where he has made a copy of the town’s animal control ordinance to take to a resident.
The police chief stressed that animal owners need to keep their pets confined when water employees are out reading meters to make sure situations like Long’s are not repeated.
“If they are going to have animals, they need to keep them contained to their property,” Hallman stressed.
While preparing to conduct patrols for school traffic, Hallman was stopped by a resident stating their neighbor had six dogs “running everywhere,” he stated.
“I talked to them,” Hallman added about the dogs’ owners. “I advised I had some complaints and that (I) was going to give them a verbal warning (that) they need to keep their dogs contained to their area.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.