The Cape Charles Town Council took up animal welfare and humane treatment at this week’s work session. On the agenda were two items, dog pens in the residential district and dog tethering. While Town code does include an animal ordinance (Article X Chapter 50) as part of the Town Code, Northampton County Animal Control is still responsible for enforcement.
Council discussed the current ordinance, which is based on county and state code, and sets a period of “12 hours in a 24-hour” as a maximum amount of time a dog could remain tethered. During discussion, Council felt that the 12-hour time frame was too long. Councilman Sambo Brown also stated that it would be impossible to enforce.
Staff provided language from the City of Suffolk as a guideline and reference:
Sec. 10-42. – Unattended tethering of dogs prohibited.
It shall be unlawful to tether any unattended dog whether or not the dog has been provided adequate space. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a class 4 misdemeanor.
Town and staff discussed whether a 1-hour time limit for tethering would be appropriate and enforceable. While the 12/24 ordinance was determined to be untenable, Council agreed that the 1-hour time limit would be much easier for officers to enforce. Councilman Brown stated that while Town Police may be able make the determination, only County Animal Control had the authority to move or transport the animal.
While there were still some issues to hammer out, such as procedure, warnings, fines, etc., consensus was that this was an important issue, and should be pursued. The Mayor and Council instructed staff to continue to work the issue, and schedule a time to bring it back for review.
The current ordinance is not specific in terms of confinement pens–they are not discussed in either Article III or Article IV of the Town Zoning Ordinance. (Kennels are expressly prohibited as a home occupation). Staff noted that under the current ordinance, pens tended to fall under accessory structures, such as sheds or garages, and this created a difficult and arbitrary enforcement scenario.
The draft language for dog pens is as follows:
Dog pen means any structure used to enclose and confine domestic canines outside of the principal building or structure on a lot. Pens shall be located only in the rear yard and in accordance with the Town’s zoning regulations. Pens shall be designed to provide the canines with shelter from the elements of nature, and constructed in such a manner as not to cause injury to the animal or interfere with movement, vision or respiration. Pens shall be in a clean, dry, and sanitary condition at all times. Animal waste shall not be allowed to accumulate.
During discussion, Council agreed that if pens were going to be allowed in the R-1 district, there should be adequate controls for them defined in the zoning ordinance. Council instructed staff to continue refine the language, and bring it back for further review.