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Irate citizens: Commission overreaches on animal control

By Walter Geiger A standing room only crowd of some 80 animal lovers was on hand for a July 18 county commission meeting after a draft of a proposed animal control ordinance was circulated and a firestorm of disapproval ignited on social media. The ordinance was obviously borrowed from another jurisdiction and was chock full of rules and regulations that make no sense here. The crowd seized on that like a chihuahua on the ankle of a mailman new to the route. Before a lengthy period of public comment from those in attendance, the commission dismissed the draft ordinance as unworkable and tabled it for 60 days. Those speaking out were : Stephen Allen Trice Road: Allen noted state laws govern animal control and the draft duplicated that effort. ‘Instead of tabling it, why don’t you trash it,’ Allen asked. Van Baker Thomaston Street: ’We need to tweak what we have but now is not the time to do it,’ said Baker, a former commissioner himself. He suggested waiting until the animal shelter is built and visiting other counties to see what they do. Marilyn Price Lee Street: ’Who has the right to tell me I have to spay or neuter my dog,’ Price asked. Joyce Farmer Yatesville Road: Farmer criticized the commission for poor communication in that the ordinance had only been circulated the previous night. ‘What is wrong with the old ordinance? Some of this is against my constitutional rights,’ Farmer alleged. Ashley Gilles Abbott Road: Gilles said the proposal would hurt those who take good care of their animals. ‘People need to be responsible for themselves and be responsible for their animals,’ said Gilles, who teaches therapeutic riding. Beverly Eskridge Holmes Street: Eskridge also decried the lack of notice and said the county website had posted no meeting minutes or agenda items since 2015. ‘What has happened to transparency in government,’ she asked. Linda Mechem Peacock Road: Peacock took issue with the current shelter euthanizing animals, noting she and her husband rescue animals and transport them. A native of Vicksburg, Ms., Mechem also blasted the plan to relocate graves from the Wadsworth Cemetery. ‘You should be ashamed. That is disrespectful. It makes me cringe,’ Mechem said. Lorene Palmer Ramah Church Road: Palmer said some of the stuff in the proposal goes against what her veterinarian has told her. ‘How can someone come on my property and make decisions about my animals? You are writing laws about stuff you don’t understand,’ Palmer said. Karl Heidbrink Hwy. 36 West: Holding up a copy of the constitution, Heidbrink said, ‘Keep your ass off my property unless I invite you on it. You are not welcome on my property.’ Julia Heidbrink Hwy. 36 West: Heidbrink agreed with Baker that animal control officers need training. ‘Get some people who know dogs and how to handle them to help you with this,’ she encouraged. Melaine Hardwick Five Points Road: Noting the ordinance tied a lot of its restrictions to rabies control, Hardwick said CDC figures listed 67 rabid dogs last year in the US., six in Georgia and none in Lamar. ‘Innoculations are already covered under state law. Why are you doing this now? With this issue and the cemetery there has definitely been a lack of communication on your parts,’ Hardwick said. Glenda Peavy Main Street, Milner: Peavy took issue with the proposed $100 fee for those giving up animals. ‘People are not going to pay $100 to give up their animals. They will just dump them on a dirt road and add to the problem,’ Peavy said. She said she keeps Great Pyrenees dogs to guard her goats and chickens. ‘If you come on my property to take my animals, well, its going to be an uphill battle,’ Peavy added. Michele Barker No address given: Barker, a dog trainer, alleged county personnel currently lack the knowledge to determine what is a dangerous animal. ‘If you come in my house, my dogs are going to hurt you. That is their job,’ Barker said. Pat Peurifoy Fredonia Church Road: Peurifoy, a professional rescue operator, agreed a $100 surrender fee would increase dumping. ‘Rescue groups and animal control need to work together to find solutions. We have huge problems with strays and abandonment here,’ she said. John Dawson McKneely Road: Dawson has a micro farm and raises chickens, pets and goats to help feed multiple foster children. He, too, has dogs guarding his livestock and raises and sells them. ’I sell protective dogs. I am not going to fix them. This ordinance gives more power to your dogcatcher than your sheriff has,’ he alleged. Jere Moore Rose Avenue: Acknowledging the crowd, Moore told the commission, ‘This is how government is supposed to work. I am proud of these people. We have a great city here. Take advantage of these good people who know about dogs. Let them help you.’ Ann Allen Trice Road: Allen said she trains border collies. ‘Georgia has a right to farm act. This ordinance is in conflict with that. Working dogs should be excluded,’ said Allen who volunteered to help revise the measure. Gordon Taff Tharpe Road: ’Who do you think you are to tell me to spay or neuter my dog? If you come to check on my dog, he’s not gonna be real friendly. I don’t see why y’all think you need to tell people how to handle their animals,’ Taff said. Dee Bowman Brent Road: Bowman takes in rescue animals and runs a property rental concern. ‘When they call me, people want to know if they can bring their animals. This is going to hurt our economy,’ Bowman said. Dwight Fleming Van Buren Road: ’You knew this was bad and you tabled it but you still sat here and took the bashing. These are responsible animal owners. You need to take care of the problem with strays and not aim your ordinance at people who keep their dogs on their own property,’ Fleming said. After the public comments, commissioner Bennie Horton acknowledged the ‘great comments’. Commissioner Robert Heiney said, ‘Nobody up here wants to have in your face government. Thanks for showing up and making your point.’ Commissioner Ryran Traylor attended the meeting via phone from his daughter’s softball tournament in Orlando. ‘ A lot of people called me. They were very professional. This is the way it is supposed to be,’ Traylor said. ’We will scrap this and start over,’ added commissioner Nancy Thrash. Chairman Charles Glass addressed an issue raised about the commission website, noting that an old website was still online. He was unaware of it and said it would be deleted. ’We appreciate you coming out and giving us feedback,’ Glass concluded.

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