Winnsboro Animal Laws Get First Look

Dog Complaints Spark Ordinance Review

WINNSBORO (Dec. 22, 2016) – Town Council Tuesday night began deliberations over how to strengthen the Town’s animal control ordinance – and what the current ordinance does and does not allow – following complaints about barking dogs at a home in the 500 block of N. Zion Street.

Lt. Mike Carrol with the Department of Public Safety told Council that the homeowner has eight full-grown pit bulls, which he said were all healthy, and which he said he suspected were being used for breeding purposes. But Carrol said the homeowner was at first compliant and agreed to remove some of his dogs.

However, Carrol returned to the home a few weeks later after complaints continued and was greeted by an entirely different attitude, he said.

The homeowner, Carrol said, provided evidence that he himself was surrounded by neighbors with barking dogs.

“That kind of put me in the position of ‘how can I just charge him and he’s got video of his other neighbors’ dogs barking’,” Carrol said.

Furthermore, the homeowner said he would just pay the $100 fine outlined in the ordinance and keep the dogs.

“He also informed me the ordinance says if he pays $25 he can have a kennel inside the city jurisdiction,” Carrol said. “I looked up the ordinance and it does say if he pays an annual license fee of $25 he can operate a kennel inside the city.”

But Councilman Jackie Wilkes noted that kennels are not allowed in districts zoned R-1 (residential). And, Wilkes added, the $100 fine was not a one-time deal.

“He can pay it,” Wilkes said, “but if they have another complaint it’s $100 a day for every day they get a complaint. It’s not that he can pay a $100 fine and be Scot free for another year.”

Carrol told Council that within two or three houses surrounding the N. Zion Street home there were nearly 15 dogs. A revised ordinance, he suggested, should specify exactly how many dogs an individual could keep. Furthermore, Carrol said, while the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) can come in and inspect kennels, the ordinance had to be enforced by an animal control officer.

“We need an animal control officer,” Major John Seibles, acting WDPS Chief, agreed. “We need one that’s trained. In town now we have more pit bulls tied up around here. And it’s not very realistic for us to send our officers who don’t have the proper equipment and don’t have the training to go deal with pit bulls. We need somebody that’s qualified to operate a dart gun. There are many restriction through DHEC. We need somebody who’s qualified to do that.”

Seibles said his department gets numerous animal control calls, which require a dedicated animal control officer.

“We also need to have that officer look at the treatment of animals,” Don Wood, Town Manager, said. “We see a lot of abuse of animals all over town.”

“The first thing we need to do is change our ordinance,” Councilman Clyde Sanders said. “I like the way Columbia’s ordinance reads. I think it gives us better control over what we can do with animals than what we’ve got in our current ordinance. I would like to look at putting something together from Columbia that we can adopt for Winnsboro to use.”

Mayor Roger Gaddy, self-professed owner of four dogs, said he moved back to Winnsboro specifically to be able to own multiple dogs after running into a bureaucratic nightmare with the City of Columbia in the late 1970s. But, he said, he understood the need for tightening the rules.

“What we’re trying to do is reel in some of these outliers that are causing nuisances in their neighborhood and probably to some degree are not giving the animals the best care they ought to have,” Gaddy said. “I think we need to do something. If you live in a municipality, in a municipality there’s got to be some kind of rules, there’s got to be some regulations, and I certainly understand that.”

At the same time, Gaddy added, “If I’m taking care of my animals and they stay inside, I don’t want the regulations to be so obtrusive that I have to go to a big expense (to build a kennel). If you’re living in town I don’t think you need to be having a kennel where you have a litter of puppies every three months and they’re causing a nuisance. And this (existing ordinance) doesn’t say you can’t have six dogs, but if you have six dogs there’s some hoops you have to jump through, and I don’t have a big problem with that.”

“We’ve got no hoops,” Sanders chimed in.

At Councilman Danny Miller’s suggestion, Council said it would schedule a work session for January to hash out a tougher ordinance and the hiring of a dedicated animal control officer. In the meantime, Miller said that since an official complaint had been filed against the N. Zion Street homeowner, that complaint should be followed up on and enforced.

“I think we have to enforce the complaint and let it go to the Magistrate’s judge,” Miller said.

If the N. Zion Street homeowner then wanted to file a complaint against his neighbors for barking dogs, Miller said, then that complaint should also be followed in order.

Seibles affirmed that his department would enforce the complaints.