Dogs and cats in the City of Union will soon have to wear collars bearing the names and contact information of their owners who will also be required to take steps to prevent the birth of unwanted litters of puppies and/or kittens.
Union City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve first reading of an ordinance that repeals and replaces the third chapter of the city’s animal control ordinance. Mayor Harold Thompson said the purpose of the new chapter is to support and promote responsible pet ownership in the city.
“This ordinance is to protect the health and safety and promote the general welfare of all our citizens and animals residing in the City of Union,” Thompson said. “The City of Union welcomes and encourages pet ownership when it is accompanied by responsible, caring, humane, and legal treatment of the animal. Pet owners must be respectful of the rights of their fellow citizens, public and private property, and quality of life as it is impacted by their animals.”
Thompson said that previously there were “quite a few grey areas” in the ordinance that “we felt did not address problems in some areas of concern” and were “just not specific in details.”
Those “grey areas” not previously addressed by the ordinance include requiring owners to make sure their pets wear collars with their contact information and proof of rabies inoculation. Section 3-11 states that “all cats and dogs within the city shall wear a collar that displays the owner’s name, address and telephone number. A current rabies inoculation tag must also be displayed on the collar at all times.”
Union Public Safety Director Sam White said this requirement was not in the ordinance previously.
“We had a big problem with animals we’d pick up and there would be no way we could identify and contact their owner,” White said. “When we’d pick up an animal and it had nothing identifying the owner, we couldn’t contact the owner to come pick up their pet. With this, all dog and cat owners in the city will have to put collars on their pets identifying themselves and providing contact information so we can call them if we pick up the animal. It will also let us know if the animal’s rabies vaccination is current.”
Also new is the “redemption fee” that pet owners will be required to pay to reclaim their pet if the animal is picked up by the city animal control officer.
“We have a problem with the same animals being picked up four or five times a year,” White said. “So we’ve put in place a redemption fee that owners will have to pay each time their animal is picked up.”
For the first offense, the pet owner pays a $50 fee and $100 for the second offense. For the third offense, the fee is $200 and $500 for the fourth offense.
The new chapter also spells out the steps owners must take to prevent their female dogs and/or cats from anything other than planned breeding.
Section 3-10 states that “all female dogs and cats in season shall be kept inside a building or within a secure fence or other enclosure which limits the dog or cat to a particular confined area so that the dog or cat cannot come into contact with a male dog or cat except for planned breeding. Persons who plan the breeding of dogs or cats and the selling of the resulting puppies or kittens must obtain a city business license.
“When allowed outdoors to relieves itself, a female dog or cat in season shall be on a hand-held leash and under the observation of its owner or keeper and must remain on the property of the owner or keeper. Female dogs or cats in season are not permitted to be walked on any public roadway or property.”
White said this part of the ordinance is designed to reduce the population of unwanted cats and dogs in the city. He said unwanted puppies and kittens are taken to the animal shelter where they are either adopted or euthanized.
Another issue addressed for the first time by the amended ordinance is the ownership of wild animals, which White said is increasing.
“That seems to be a growing trend, with people getting animals like hybrid wolves,” White said. “We have had in the past one instance of a person who kept a hybrid wolf. We didn’t have anything in the ordinance regulating that.”
The ordinance states that no one is allowed to keep any wild animal unless authorized to do so by the SC Department of Natural Resources. It makes it unlawful for anyone to “buy, sell, trade, capture, feed or transport” a wild animal “for purposes of domestication.” The section does not, however, apply to a person “licensed to possess and breed an animal specified and regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture as codified in Title 7 of the United States Code.”
Another issue addressed for the first time by the amended ordinance is the keeping of dangerous animals.
“We didn’t have anything on dangerous animals, animals that attacks or injures a human or other domesticated animal,” White said. “If you keep a dangerous animal you have to have a $50,000 insurance policy on that animal. The animal has to be registered with us. They have to be in a special pen and it has to be labeled that there’s a dangerous animal inside.”
The section of the chapter dealing with dangerous animals states that the pen containing the animal must be a minimum of six feet high with a secure top and a locking gate. The pen must also be a minimum of 100 square feet in size. If the pen does not have a secure bottom, all sides must be embedded in the ground.
An animal determined to be dangerous may be let out of its pen only if it is on a leash “with a minimum tinsel strength of 300 pounds” and no more than “three feet in length.” The animal “must be muzzled at all times, but without interfering” with its ability to breathe and see. It must also “be under the control of a competent person of 18 years of age or older.”
Animal Control Officers
White said that the public safety department has two animal control officers who are responsible for enforcing the ordinance. If a person in the city needs the services of an animal control officer, they should call 429-1713.