During the winter, citizens provided the Cape Charles Planning Commission photographs of dogs that were being penned in less than humane circumstances. The photos showed dogs standing in cold water, in an area that appeared severely neglected. This has led the Commission to, for the past several months review the issue of dog enclosures ( “pens”) within the residential areas of Cape Charles.
Commissioners have also reviewed other ordinance language from the City of Suffolk. During the last meeting, the Planning Commission has been focused on how best to deal with the condition of domestic dogs left in outdoor pens, but also whether the town should pursue a more robust tethering ordinance (currently, the town is following the Northampton County ordinance, allowing the animal to be tethered for up to 12 hour periods of time). “I thought this is what this was all about,” said Commissioner Dan Burke. “Are we going to look at the tethering issue?”
The issue came to a head a few weeks ago when County Animal Control was alerted to the plight of the dogs that were being kept in what were clearly inhumane conditions. Animal Control was unable to do anything to help the dogs, due to the fact that the town did not have an enforceable ordinance on the books that dealt with dog pens.
Following the May 16th meeting staff was tasked with developing draft language that would define dog pens, and provide text for meaningful enforcement protocols. The following draft text amendments to zoning ordinance Article II Section 2.9 (definitions) and Article III Section 3.2.B.8 reads 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.
The Planning Commission voted to approve the language, and to send it on to Town Council for approval. While the issue of tethering was discussed, no direction was given to staff to work on draft language. However, Commissioner Andy Buchholz, who has been championing the work on a more stringent tethering ordinance, will be assuming his role on Town Council in July. Buchholz noted that he would be pursuing the issue, and direction will more than likely come from Town Council by this fall. “The draft, this language, is a good first step…right now, the tethering ordinance we have is just taken from the county, and it’s not enforceable…if we can get that in place here, something better, we can maybe move the county in that direction,” Buchholz said.