County updates animal control ordinance

Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 5/9/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County Animal Control Ordinance has been finalized and with it, a few changes to the county’s animal services were made.

During the May 8 Board of County …

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County updates animal control ordinance


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County Animal Control Ordinance has been finalized and with it, a few changes to the county’s animal services were made.

During the May 8 Board of County Commissioners meeting, which found itself two commissioners short as both Chairman Gavin Rollins and commissioner Gayward Hendry were absent having been called in to serve the National Guard and FBI respectively. Clay County Animal Control and Care Director Christina Sutherin presented the changes made to the ordinance before the board took a vote on it. Many of the ordinance changes were put in place to clarify the existing ordinance while other changes align the ordinance with state statutes.

“Some of the stuff was really lengthy and we shortened it to coincide with state statutes and the rabies compendium that’s recognized by the state veterinarian which makes our lives a little bit easier because we don’t have to come before you every time one of those changes,” Sutherin said, explaining the changes to the ordinance draft. “These changes help us keep up with the pace.”

One of the biggest changes coming to the animal service is its change in name. Originally titled Clay County Animal Control and Care, this ordinance would see the name changed to Clay County Animal Services, a decision previously made by the BCC – the ordinance was simply updated to officially recognize the new change. Before diving further into the ordnance draft, Sutherin discussed some updates to definitions used by the service, among them being “adequate shelter” and “dangerous dog,” as well as others.

According to the ordinance, adequate shelter is described as an enclosure of at least three sides and a roof that is structurally sound, maintained in good repair, water and wind resistant, free of standing water, providing of shade and maintains adequate ventilation and light. A dangerous dog is now strictly defined by Florida Statute 767.11(1) which deems a dog dangerous if it has aggressively bitten, attacked or endangered a human being, has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property or has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person with the intention to attack. Because the new definition now aligns with the state statute, it can ebb and flow with the statute as the statute is changed, according to Sutherin.

Another important change is that Clay County Animal Services will be the sole decision maker in determining whether a dog is suitable for adoption.

“The [Division of Animal Services] is given the authority to decide if animals are suitable for adoption and the disposal, and by disposal of animals, it means whether or not we are following state statute with the sheriff’s office in continuing to auction those animals off but whether they go to rescue, or whether we’re transferring them out, it’s up to us,” Sutherin said.

Possibly the biggest update to the ordinance, Clay County now requires a mandatory spay and neuter upon impound or pickup.

“We’ve added mandatory spay and neuter upon impound or prior to redemption from Animal Services,” Sutherin said. “There is a one-time exemption to that where you can pay a $500 fee, or fine essentially, and be able to reclaim your animal without being altered but that’s the one time. The second time that animal comes into our system, then the mandatory spay and neuter would be performed.”

This rule also requires an animal to be microchipped with its reunion with its original family.

Finally, tethering rules have been changed. Previously, discussions have been held to ban tethering but this ordinance would allow it so long as the tethering is humane. According to Sutherin, the rules that Clay County has come up with are based heavily on what other counties in the state are doing. Some of the humane rules include no tethering an animal outside during extreme weather conditions, a tethered animal must have access to fresh water at all times and sufficient, wholesome food and the tether used must allow the animal to move 10 feet in all directions.

After Sutherin finished her discussion of the ordinance draft, Commissioner Diane Hutchings asked that the Category 4 Civil Infraction of “Operating a feral cat colony unlawfully,” be stricken from the ordinance, per the suggestion by County Manager Stephanie Kopelousos.

“If you look at the third item down that says, ‘Operating a feral cat colony unlawfully,’ we don’t have anything like that in our ordinance at this point, so my recommendation and I believe [Sutherin’s] would be to go ahead and take that out,” Kopelousos said.

After commissioner Mike Cella asked that Sutherin produce materials for the public to receive in order to learn of these changes, the board made a motion to approve this draft of the ordinance. The BCC voted 3-0 to approve the first reading. A second reading will be held at an upcoming BCC meeting.


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