Town of Winnsboro resists tougher animal control laws

WINNSBORO – Winnsboro leaders think Fairfield County is barking up the wrong tree by asking the town to emulate the county’s animal control ordinance.

On Monday night, Winnsboro Town Council members resisted the request, saying the county’s law is overly superfluous and restrictive.

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

For example, Gaddy said he opposes a provision that would limit households to owning three dogs or less.

“I have six, and as far as I know they’re not a nuisance,” Gaddy said. “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.”

Councilman John McMeekin said he was open to enacting a reasonable animal control ordinance, but noted the town needs adequate resources to enforce the law.

Councilman Clyde Sanders agreed with Gaddy that the county law was burdensome, but also said he’d support higher fines for animal abuse. He proposed increasing animal cruelty fines to $500.

“The one thing I would like to see the town do is have a fine of that amount,” Sanders said. “I can’t stand seeing dogs chained in the yard without anything to eat. If we catch someone, the fine ought to be high enough to prevent them from doing it.”

Winnsboro Police Chief John Seibles said officers handle several animal cruelty cases, including a few felonies. He noted manpower is the greatest challenge.

“We don’t have a full-time dedicated animal control officer, though our officers do a good job with that,” Seibles said. “If it is on the books, we’d be charged with enforcing it in some kind of way, but we don’t have the means to.”

Council members accepted the county’s request as information, but took no action.

“We have ordinances on the books that we don’t enforce now unless someone complains about it,” Gaddy said. “I don’t want us to vote on something if we’re not able to fulfill the letter of the law.”

In other business, the council voted unanimously to appoint McMeekin as an ex-officio member to the Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce.

The vote mirrors a similar action Fairfield County Council took last month.

On May 14, the council voted to authorize the chairman to appoint a county council member to the board as a condition of receiving its annual grant of $87,507 in its entirety.

The county’s appointee can vote, but cannot hold an office, such as president or secretary. The town’s appointee, however, would serve as an ex-officio member with no voting powers.

“I think it would be a great idea. I think it would help give the chamber input from the town, and give a liaison from the town the opportunity to let us know what’s going on with the chamber,” Gaddy said. “There can be a line of communication, but not conflicted when it comes to voting on matters affecting the chamber.”

First reading of the budget and annual tax levy by title only was also on the agenda Monday night.

Second reading and a public hearing on both budget ordinances will take place at the next council meeting.