Family appeals animal control citations

Published 11:06 pm Sunday, November 24, 2013

Board of adjustment reconvenes Nov. 26

A family in the Tryon Township has appealed animal control citations of more than $500 given for their three pit bulls being at large and for interfering with officers.  The Nelsons said the citations were wrongly issued and they were harassed by officers.

The Polk County Board of Adjustment heard testimony on Tuesday, Nov. 19 from the Nelsons of Screven Road, and Polk County Sheriff officers regarding the citations.

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On Sept. 27, Deputy Jake Staggs, acting as animal control officer, responded to 375 Screven Road to a report of pit bull dogs attempting to attack a neighbor’s dog.

After investigating the residence he saw that there was no food or water and was concerned over a female dog. Staggs called Polk County Animal Control Investigator Patti Lovelace who also visited the property later that day. At that time, the Nelsons were advised that the dogs need to be current on rabies vaccinations, and gave them until Oct. 4 to show current records.

The sheriff’s office also took custody of two pit bull puppies, which they say were infested with fleas and had no food or water. The Nelsons voluntarily gave the puppies to the sheriff’s office, saying they were trying to find them homes. Also on Sept. 27, Lovelace told the Nelsons they had to keep the dogs confined to the property until they could show paperwork that they had been vaccinated.

On Oct. 3, Polk County Animal Control Officer Cole Weicker received a complaint from a Carolina Yarn Processing (CYP) employee who claimed the pit bulls were harassing him while he was mowing the property.

Staggs testified that on Oct. 3 he went back to the residence where the Nelsons seemed agitated over the officers being back at the property prior to Oct. 4. Weicker and Staggs testified that Brad Nelson and Byran Nelson were combative, said obscenities to them, told them to leave their property and prevented them from doing their jobs. Brad, Byran and Judith Nelson were issued citations for each of the dogs running at large as well as citations for interference with the animal control officer.

“The citations for the interference were given as a courtesy instead of taking the subjects to jail and before a judicial official,” Weicker said.

Testifying on behalf of the Nelsons was Brad Nelson, who first explained that the female dog only looks malnourished because she had just given birth. Brad Nelson said every time officers came to the property the family stated they did not want them on their property. He said officers gave them 10 days to get the paperwork and they came the day before and the Nelsons provided them paperwork that the dogs had been vaccinated. Brad Nelson said officers claim that the family’s dogs are at large and attacking but they are not.

“I don’t understand how our dogs can be such at large and dangerous if these guys can go on our property without being attacked,” Brad Nelson said.

He also said he felt like the tickets were given out of frustration and with six tickets he feels that’s a little overwhelming for his family.

“We feel like we did everything they told us to do,” Brad Nelson said.

With the CYP complaint, Brad Nelson said it wasn’t his dogs and showed pictures of other dogs in the neighborhood that look like two of his pit bulls. He said the dogs were on probation and that’s why his dogs were on his property.

Brad Nelson also said he doesn’t understand how his dogs are getting complaints when the neighborhood has a full grown horse and a goat walking up and down the street in front of his house.

“All we want to do is get all our fines dropped because we feel like we were compliant to the officers,” Brad Nelson said. “I understand we were frustrated, but we just can’t afford it at the moment.”

Weicker said the CYP employee gave him the description of the three dogs and the employee told him he witnessed the dogs go to 375 Screven Road and that this was not the first time he encountered the dogs.

Weicker said when he went to the property on Oct. 3, two of the dogs were off the chain but on the property and one dog was chained.

Polk County’s ordinance states that it is unlawful to keep an animal that is frequently at large.

Persons owning an animal shall keep such animal exclusively upon the owner’s premises, according to the animal control ordinance. Such animal, however, may be off such premises if it is under the control of a person with a chain, leash, harness or other means of control.

Dogs do not have to be under physical restraint while off the owner’s premises if the dog is under the person’s direct control and is obedient to that person’s commands, according to the ordinance.

A citation of an animal frequently at large is a level II violation of the ordinance with a $75 fine. A citation of interference with an animal control officer is a level III violation, with a $100 fine.

The board of adjustment will reconvene on Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 4 p.m. in the Womack building in Columbus where members will approve findings of fact in the case and are scheduled to make a decision to either uphold the animal control officers’ citations or to dismiss the citations issued to the Nelsons. There will be no opportunity for further public comment.