HILLSBOROUGH- A second attempt to streamline Orange County’s animal control ordinance hit a roadblock Tuesday as commissioners, residents and animal services staffers wrangled over what it means to be a watchdog.
“I’m not sure that we need a definition of watchdog, per se, but I think we need a definition of an animal that’s on its own property, minding its own business, when a human being comes on the property who is not minding their own business,” said Board Chair Barry Jacobs.
The current ordinance defines a watchdog as any dog that barks or threatens to bite an intruder, but Staff Attorney Annette Moore said that’s too broad.
“It’s meaningless, because there’s no prohibition in the ordinance against anybody having a dog that barks at a person,” Moore told the board.
Animal Services Advisory Board Vice-Chair Michelle Walker said the inclusion of the term in the ordinance only causes confusion when someone gets bitten.
“That’s the public safety concern,” said Walker. “We want to identify dogs that have shown propensity to bite unprovoked by someone who is not on property with any ill intent.”
But commissioners including Mark Dorosin argued that the ordinance needs some added flexibility on the question of who’s liable when a dog bites a trespasser.
“Under the current ordinance there’s a blanket ‘no-liability’ for an owner if a person comes onto their land, and I think the concern of the dog owners is that they don’t want the thing turned 180 degrees so there’s strict liability if their dogs bites anyone,” said Dorosin. “So what we have is these two extreme positions being staked out, neither of which I think serves the interests of the county.”
The ordinance would have required a unanimous vote to pass on the first reading. Instead, the board tabled the item for discussion in two weeks. At that time, commissioners say they want Animal Services staffers to come back with new ideas.
“There’s some galaxy of issues dealing with ‘watchdog’ and ‘trespass’ that I think we’re all asking you to try and address,” said Jacobs. “I think we need more clarity.”
The board was largely in favor of other portions of the new ordinance, including a plan to create a formal appeal process for residents whose animals have been deemed dangerous or vicious.
Commissioners will revisit the animal control ordinance on October 15.