Chairman contests response to proposed ordinance

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County is shooing any notion that it’s trying to coax the Town of Winnsboro into adopting the tougher animal control laws that the County is considering.

But that’s the perception Winnsboro Town Council expressed during its June 5 meeting.

Mayor Roger Gaddy called the county’s proposed ordinance “cumbersome,” and he and other council members questioned the town’s ability to enact it.

County Council Chairman Billy Smith, however, said the ordinance is in the very early proposal stages.

Smith said it’s subject to change, and there aren’t any plans to nudge Winnsboro into passing a similar measure. He was especially surprised the document was presented and debated by Winnsboro Town Council.

“I think that discussion was probably premature,” Smith said, noting he first learned about the Winnsboro discussion by reading about it in The Voice.

Smith said staff prepared the draft ordinance, and that it hasn’t been presented to county council.

“We haven’t even seen it (the ordinance),” he said. “I was told it was not something meant to go to any other council.”

At its June 5 council meeting, the Winnsboro Town Council accepted as information a proposed county ordinance it said was aimed at strengthening animal control regulations.

Gaddy held a copy of the proposed ordinance in his hands as he told council members about the county’s request.

He and others, though, expressed concerns about the town’s ability to enforce a stricter animal control ordinance.

“I think the ordinance is relatively lengthy and cumbersome and may impose some difficulty and cost in enforcing it,” Gaddy said. “We still have to deal with issues with animal control without passing something consistent with the county.”

Gaddy also opposed a provision that limits dog ownership to three, noting he owns six dogs.

“I don’t want an ordinance limiting the number of dogs I have as long as they behave and believe me, they’re treated right,” the mayor said.

During the meeting, council members expressed general support for prosecuting overt acts of animal cruelty, but were reluctant to implement comprehensive changes to the law.

Winnsboro Police Chief John Seibles said manpower remains a challenge, noting the town doesn’t have a full-time animal control officer.

Seibles also said fines don’t always deter lawbreakers, noting penalties are set “at the discretion of the court.”

Animal control and financial data, and how it relates to the number of animals the county houses, are elements that Fairfield County officials are reviewing with its proposed ordinance.

Smith declined to comment about specific numbers, but acknowledged he’s interested in learning the percentage of animal calls originating from within Winnsboro town limits that county officers respond to and foots the bills for.

“I have the concern, but I want to figure out to what extent,” he said.