Walker County has once again revised its animal care ordinance and will hold its first formal public hearing about the proposed changes on Thursday, May 10.
One of the main changes to the new draft eliminates regulations that would have limited the number of animals residents could own based on the size of their property.
For local veteran Christopher Yancey, whose home sits on 0.67 acres, the now-deleted restriction would have meant giving up one of his family's four dogs, as homeowners living on 1 acre or less would have been limited to three animals.
"What are you going to do about the people that have three or four animals already?" Yancey asked. "Why are you going to punish the people who are putting up privacy fences and reinforced fencing to keep their animals contained?"
County representatives said the limitation was intended to prevent animal hoarding and inhumane living conditions for animals. LaFayette resident Kittie Palmer, however, said she felt the numbers proposed as ownership caps were "arbitrary."
"It's not the commissioner's job to preemptively decide how many animals I can adequately care for," said Palmer, who works as a veterinary technician. "I've seen people that have one pet but can't take care of it, and I've seen people that have 12 pets that spend hundreds of dollars every month and their pets want for nothing."
With the limitation cut from the draft, the current version of the ordinance focuses more on ensuring pets are being treated humanely by strengthening restrictions on public nuisances and cruelty to animals, said Walker County spokesman Joe Legge.
Palmer said she was "pleased" with the updated draft, which she believes adequately defines appropriate care for animals while still allowing for individual freedom.
"I'm completely on board with the portions of the ordinance that actually have to do with caring for the animals," she said. "I think that it addresses the issues of excess animals without having to put a limit."
Other changes in the current version of the draft include wording that would allow Walker County residents to get three-year vaccinations for their pets, as opposed to vaccinations that are only valid for one year at a time, and provisions that would give animal control officials the ability to apprehend roaming and dangerous dogs.
The draft also includes guidelines for tethering animals to ensure they have access to food, water and shade, as well as adequate space for movement. Inserted regulations regarding livestock were also removed due to overwhelming opposition from the community earlier this year.
This week's public hearing will take place at 6 p.m. in the Walker County Courthouse Annex III building before the regularly scheduled commission meeting.
A second public hearing will be held at the same time before the next commission meeting on May 24. During that meeting, Commissioner Shannon Whitfield will have the option to adopt the ordinance, if he so chooses.
Residents can view the revised ordinance and provide feedback at walkercountyga.gov/government/ordinances.
Email Myron Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org.