The Volusia County Council June 7 adopted a new animal-control ordinance that prohibits acts that could result in pain, suffering or death to dogs, cats and other pets.
“This has been a long time in coming,” Council Member Billie Wheeler said.
“Ten years,” said Karen Clark, a longtime member of the county’s Animal Control Advisory Board.
As well as spelling out standard provisions for licensing, keeping and caring for domestic animals, picking up stray animals, and dealing with dangerous dogs, the ordinance allows more timely intervention to head off animal mistreatment.
“The best thing is that you don’t have to wait 10 to 15 days to save a starving animal,” Clark said.
The ordinance applies only in the unincorporated areas of the county and inside the cities of Edgewater and Oak Hill, which contract with the county for animal-control services. Otherwise, cities must make their own animal laws.
“We hope this ordinance will be a model for the cities,” Council Member Danny Robins said.
Primary points of the revised law include:
— No long-term tethering or chaining of dogs or cats
— Nuisance animals, such as dogs that bark continuously and disturb neighbors or that create unsanitary or dangerous conditions, are the responsibility of their owners
— An animal no longer wanted may not be simply abandoned.
— The owner of an animal may not leave it in an unattended vehicle without adequate ventilation, especially on a hot day, and without water.
— If someone sees an animal confined or suffering inside a locked car, he/she may forcibly enter the vehicle to remove the animal, without being held civilly responsible for any damage to the vehicle.
“Nobody leaves a child in a car to die on purpose,” County Chair Jeff Brower said.
“The reality is, sometimes it happens,” county Animal Control Director Adam Leath said.
— Caregivers for feral-cat colonies are not required to secure pet licenses for the animals, but must trap cats older than 12 weeks for sterilization, and they must make certain the animals are vaccinated against rabies annually.
— No person may declaw cats, except a veterinarian who deems the removal of claws “necessary for therapeutic reasons.”
— Unless done by a veterinarian, cropping dogs’ or cats’ ears or cutting off their tails, is prohibited.
Violations of the ordinance are punishable by a fine of as much as $500.
Leath followed up regarding the restrictions on clipping animals.
“You are removing an appendage of the animal and can create pain and suffering,” he told the council.
Leath said his agency is working to reduce animal overpopulation by offering low-cost spaying and neutering of cats and dogs, even for animals whose owners live in cities.
In fact, Leath added, during the past quarter, 38 percent of the people coming to the county’s mobile pet-sterilization clinic were from the cities.
“We average about 30 surgeries per day,” he said. “That will be increased to 60 after we get our new mobile unit in August.”
Leath hailed passage of the ordinance, which was approved by a unanimous vote of the County Council.
“Today is a big day for animals,” he said.
“Animals are family. They are part of the family. They are not property,” Jeannine Colletti, another member of the Animal Control Advisory Board, said.