Dustin George Staff Writer, The Free Press
The Kinston City Council will consider changes to a city ordinance regarding proper shelter for dogs kept outside within the city limits as well as new requirements for tethering animals outside.
According to notes on the agenda for Tuesday’s public meeting of the city council, the current city ordinance for both tethering and sheltering outdoor animals was adopted in May 2006. That ordinance does not establish a minimum standard for adequate shelter or keeping a dog outside.
The 2006 ordinance only requires “a non-metallic structure to provide protection of (domestic) animals from the sun, wind, rain and cold,” consisting of three walls, a top and a floor raised off the ground or a similar structure “which will provide protection from the elements.”
The lack of definition has led to multiple complaints of animal neglect or inadequate shelter being made to Animal Control only for the living conditions in question to be within the ordinance.
The issue came to a head this month when photos of a dog in the Kinston city limits was seen chained up on a snow-covered porch.
“We’ve been monitoring social media with regards being left out in extreme weather,” said Kinston Police Chief Alonzo Jaynes, who will present the revised ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting.
Jaynes said complaints about the dog’s living condition – which met the current city ordinance – “shed a light” on the old ordinance and the need to review it.
“When it was brought to our attention we realized we needed to really define what is adequate shelter,” Jaynes said.
The proposed new ordinance would require an enclosure or structure consisting of four walls, a roof and a solid floor that “provides adequate protection from the elements: heat, cold, wind, rain and frozen precipitation.”
The ordinance would also require water-resistant roofing and, if a shelter is made of wood, that structure be at least two inches above ground with ample space for the dog to assume normal sitting and sleeping positions and for any cloth, wood shavings, straw or hay bedding be replaced as needed.
A barrel may also be considered adequate shelter if other conditions are met and the entrance is tilted at least two inches lower than the back to prevent rain from puddling in the interior and the barrel is secured to prevent rolling.
The proposed ordinance also outlines the space underneath steps, decks, stoops vehicles and trailers as inadequate shelter, though those spaces may be used for temporary shade.
In addition to updating the definition of adequate shelter, the council will also consider a change to the city’s animal restraint and tethering policy, which currently consists of one sentence.
The proposed guidelines would define a restrained animal as any kept within the property limits of its owner or keeper either by physical means or behind a fence or similar enclosure.
Any tether, rope, chain or similar type of line meant to hold an animal would need to be at least six feet from the base of the structure it is tethered to, have at least one swivel connector and be free of obstructions while providing access to a shelter or doghouse and water.
Any dog owners found to violate the new ordinance would be given 30 days to comply with the new ordinance.
“We are very pleased they have taken the initiative to clarify (the ordinance) to prevent unnecessary animal suffering,” said Lenoir County SPCA president Jerry Henderson.
While the changes, if approved, would be welcome, Henderson said he hopes the city will take time to phase in the implementation of new measures, similar to the way Lenoir County did when it updated its current tethering and shelter policy.
“They had a time for education and sent out notices before they started enforcing,” he said.
By implementing the changes too quickly, Henderson said the city could potentially see an influx of dogs picked up by animal control and delivered to the SPCA shelter, which is already at capacity.
In order to get their dogs back, owners would be required to not only bring their home into compliance with the ordinance but pay a fee at the shelter to get their animal back.
“I would rather you spend that money on a housed-in kennel or shelter for that animal,” Henderson said.
The Kinston City Council will meet 7 p.m. Tuesday at 207 E King St.
Dustin George can be reached at 252-559-1077 or Dustin.George@Kinston.com.