COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

AGENDA TITLE:

Ordinance Amendment – Chapter 4, Animals and Fowl

 

SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST:

Set public hearing to consider a proposed ordinance to amend Chapter 4, Animals and Fowl to bring it into compliance with state code.

 

STAFF CONTACT(S):

Messrs. Tucker, Elliot, Davis, and Ms. Lyttle

 

LEGAL REVIEW:   Yes

 

AGENDA DATE:

June 3, 2009

 

ACTION:                INFORMATION: 

 

CONSENT AGENDA:

  ACTION:     X       INFORMATION: 

 

ATTACHMENTS:   Yes

 

REVIEWED BY:

 

BACKGROUND:

The 2008 General Assembly re-codified Title 3.1 of the Virginia Code which included the enabling authority for local animal laws.  Effective October 1, 2008, Title 3.2 replaced the provisions of Title 3.1.  Chapter 4, Animals and Fowl, of the Albemarle County Code merits a comprehensive update to ensure conformance with state law and to properly reference the re-codified Virginia Code animal laws.    

 

STRATEGIC PLAN:

Goal 1.  Enhance the Quality of Life for all Albemarle County Residents.

Goal 4.  Effectively Manage the County’s Growth and Development.

 

DISCUSSION:

The attached draft ordinance (Attachment A) reorganizes and updates Chapter 4, Animals and Fowl.  The proposed changes to Chapter 4 encompass both housekeeping and substantive changes.  The draft ordinance provides a brief annotated explanation for each change.  The housekeeping changes include re-organizing and re-numbering the articles, divisions and sections of Chapter 4, amending the wording of existing provisions to mirror Virginia Code language, and amending the state law references to reflect the newly codified Virginia Code sections.  The key substantive changes in the draft ordinance are:

·      Section 4-100 Definitions.  Addition of “clearly visible sign,” “commercial dog breeder,” “foster care provider” and “properly cleaned”.  Adoption of the definition for “commercial dog breeder” is mandated by Virginia Code, and except for “clearly visible sign”, these new definitions all mirror the Virginia Code definitions.  The Section 4-100 (15), ”clearly visible sign” definition is included at the request of animal control to clarify a requirement of section 4-219, Dangerous and vicious animals, which requires the owner of a dangerous dog to post clearly visible signs at the owner’s residence warning minors and adults of the presence of a dangerous dog on the property. 

·      Section 4-105 Care of companion animals; penalty.  Addition of Virginia Code § 3.2-6503 requirements which require owners of companion animals to provide adequate feed, water, shelter, space, exercise, care, treatment and veterinary care to their companion animal.  This section is also applicable to all pounds, animal shelters, releasing agencies, foster care providers, animal dealers, pet shops, kennels, groomers and boarding establishments.  The Virginia Code enables localities to adopt an ordinance with these specific animal care requirements and these requirements have been added at the request of animal control.

·      Section 4-106 Noise from animals; penalty.   A recent Virginia Supreme Court ruling in Tanner v. City of Virginia Beach held that the “reasonable person” standard in the Virginia Beach noise ordinance was vague and unconstitutional.  Section 4-106(A) has been amended by removing the “reasonable” person standard which is stated as “unreasonably disturbs the peace and quiet, comfort, or repose of any person” and inserts an objective standard which states that the excessive, continuous and untimely noise must be “audible on the property of the complainant”.  A minor amendment was also made to section 4-106(C), at the request of the SPCA, by replacing “SPCA” with “animal shelter”.  The Police Department recommends that animal noise continue to be regulated.  One issue for discussion is whether the five acre Rural Areas exception remains appropriate.

·      Section 4-107 Abandonment of animals; penalty.  Addition of Virginia Code § 3.2-6504 provisions, which regulate the abandonment of any animal, and deems abandonment of an animal to be punishable as a class 3 misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500.00.  Releasing an animal to a pound, animal shelter or other such agency shall not be considered abandonment.  This provision has been added at the request of animal control.

·         Section 4-200 Running at large prohibited.  Currently, running at large is prohibited only in certain areas of the County as designated by the Board and specifically listed in the ordinance.  The list of prohibited areas has increased over the years and animal control has had difficulty determining which areas of the County the ordinance is applicable to, thus rendering it difficult to enforce the ordinance.  At the request of animal control, Section 4-200 has been amended to prohibit running at large throughout the County, except in areas zoned Rural Areas District; however, areas zoned Rural Areas District which were previously identified as a no running at large area will remain a prohibited running at large area and are listed as such in section 4-200(A).  At the suggestion of animal control, an exemption has been added that a dog is not deemed to be running at large if it is on a bona fide hunt during hunting season accompanied by a licensed hunter or during field trials or training periods when accompanied by its owner.  Lastly, specific authority has been included to provide that if a dog is observed or captured by animal control while running at large, the dog will be impounded in accordance with the impoundment provisions, section 4-300 et seq., of this ordinance. 

·         Section 4-202 Compensation for livestock and poultry killed by dogs.  Addition of Virginia Code § 3.2-6553 provisions which set forth the procedures and maximum compensation that an animal owner may seek for livestock, poultry or fowl killed by a dog.  These procedures and compensation have been available to such animal owners pursuant to the Virginia Code, and has been added to the ordinance at the suggestion of animal control in order to more readily inform such animal owners of available procedures and remedies, while also providing continuity with section 4-201, Dogs killing, injuring or chasing livestock or poultry—Generally.

·         Article II, Dogs and Other Animals, Division 3, Commercial Breeders.  The Virginia Code mandates that all localities adopt the provisions and requirements of Virginia Code § 3.2-6507.1 et seq., which sets forth the licensing and business practice requirements for commercial dog breeders.  The requirements include: obtaining a valid business license for commercial dog breeding; maintaining no more than 50 dogs over the age of 1 year at any time; obtaining an annual certification from a licensed veterinarian for female dogs between the ages of 18 months and 8 years, with such certification stating that the dog is suitable for breeding; disposing of only by gift, sale, transfer, barter or euthanasia by a licensed veterinarian; and maintaining accurate records of the commercial breeding operation for at least five years.  Violations of these requirements are punishable as a class 1 misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1000.00 or up to 12 months in prison.

·         Section 4-301 Impoundment; expenses; lien; disposition of animal.  Addition of Virginia Code § 3.2-6565 provisions which authorize animal control or law-enforcement officers to impound an animal whose owner has failed to provide appropriate and adequate care to an animal, which renders the animal in such a condition that it constitutes a direct and immediate threat to its life, safety or health, and whose owner has failed to remedy the condition and situation.  This provision has been added at the request of animal control.

·         Section 4-401 Rabid animals, emergency ordinance.  Addition of Virginia Code § 3.2-6522 provisions which address rabid animals.  The provisions authorize confinement of animals suspected to be rabid, and when there is sufficient reason to believe a rabid animal is at large, authorizes the Board of Supervisors to adopt an emergency ordinance requiring owners of all dogs and cats to keep their dogs or cats confined to prevent the animals from being bitten by the rabid animal.  In addition, any person having knowledge of the existence of an animal that is afflicted with rabies is required to immediately report the information to the Charlottesville/Albemarle Health Department.  Violation of this section is punishable as a class 1 misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1000.00 or up to 12 months in prison.  This has been added to provide the County with the necessary powers to protect the public’s health and safety as it relates to rabid animals.

 

The County currently does not regulate wild, exotic, poisonous and venomous animals (wild animals), nor animal conduct that might be defined as a nuisance.  In reviewing other localities’ ordinances, such regulations are often included in local animal ordinances.  There are a variety of ways in which other localities regulate wild animals, which include an outright ban of such animals, to allowing certain wild animals to be kept in the locality after receiving a permit from animal control. An ordinance regulating nuisance animal conduct, such as animals destroying property or chasing bicyclists, is desired by animal control.  What specific types of animal conduct appropriate to be regulated is still being reviewed by animal control.  If the Board desires regulation of wild animals and/or nuisance animal conduct, draft ordinances can be brought to the Board at a later date for consideration.

 

BUDGET IMPACT:

Staff anticipates limited additional enforcement by animal control officers under the proposed ordinance and, therefore, anticipates that there should be a minimal budget impact.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Staff recommends that the Board authorize a public hearing for the attached proposed ordinance for a July meeting date. Direction from the Board is requested if any additional modifications to the animal noise ordinance are desired. Additionally, staff requests that the Board provide guidance on whether there is interest in staff proceeding with future ordinance amendments to regulate nuisance animal behavior, and/or wild, exotic, poisonous and venomous animals.

 

ATTACHMENTS

A - Draft Ordinance

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