County Commissioners Want Clarity On New Animal Control Rules

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.

BoCC To Discuss Streamlining Animal Control Regs.

ORANGE COUNTY – Orange County Commissioners will consider a uniform animal control ordinance when the board meets Tuesday.

The county’s Animal Services department is looking to streamline animal control regulations so that the towns and county operate under the same set of rules.

When the board first reviewed the changes last June, multiple dog owners came out to protest.

Many said the changes didn’t take into account different conditions in the rural and urban areas. Others worried that the rules would scrap the unofficial designation of “watchdog,” instead recognizing only trained and registered sentry dogs.

The board will also honor former state senator Ellie Kinnaird for her many years of public service in Orange County.

The board meets at 7 o’clock at the Department of Social Services in Hillsborough.


Orange County Now Providing Animal Services In Carrboro

CARRBORO – Orange County Animal Services will now be providing animal control for the Town of Carrboro, where animal control was previously handled by town police.

The change will take effect July 1. Carrboro police captain and future chief of police, Walter Horton, explains that the time seemed right to make the switch.

“We used to have an animal control officer, and we no longer have that officer,” Horton says. “It is something that we felt made sense, since they already cover Chapel Hill.”

Director of Orange County Animal Services, Bob Marotto, says that Carrboro’s previous system of enforcing animal control made it an outlier among the towns in the county.

“I think that there has been an interest in having integrated and coordinated animal services provided by our department for the whole county,” Marotto says.

In the past, Orange County Animal Services had been called to Carrboro in the event of an outstanding animal incident.

Carrboro police and Orange County Animal Services note the multiple reported coyote sightings in Orange County and near Carrboro recently. However, there are note any outstanding issues like that currently.

One incident that Marotto remembers in particular was a family of coyotes in Carrboro near Hogan Farms that had offspring.

“They had become unfearful of people,” Marotto says. “They were closer to people than people were comfortable with.”

Horton says there have even been coyote sightings in the past months.

“Out in the northern areas, up near Sunset Creek and the old 86 area, we have two or three around there,” Horton says. “They’ve been following citizens while they walk their dogs.”

Three reports of bear sightings were made this week, but Marotto says the change is unrelated to the recent sightings in Carrboro.