Columbus looks into ordinances for dogs left out in extreme cold

Published 11:35 pm Tuesday, January 26, 2016

By Leah Justice

The Town of Columbus is looking into other local government animal control ordinances after councilwoman Margaret Metcalf expressed concern about dogs being left outside in the extreme cold.

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Columbus Town Council met Thursday, Jan. 21 and heard from Metcalf, who asked town manager Tim Barth if he’d looked into the town’s animal control ordinance regarding dogs that she knows of being left out in extreme temperatures.

Barth said somebody would have to testify that the animals are not in a humane enclosure, according to the town’s current ordinances. Barth said if the dogs bark all the time the town’s noise ordinance could kick in but even that is difficult to enforce.

“But it’s inhumane to leave dogs out in this weather,” said Metcalf. “And they’re in a tiny enclosed area.”

Columbus Police Chief Chris Beddingfield said officers have been to the discussed location 8-10 times. He said a doghouse was present. He also said residents have been to the property and the property owner has called the police department about people going on his property.

Beddingfield said there are some people who will argue that dogs have fur and they’re supposed to be outside and they provided a doghouse so the dogs could go in.

Beddingfield also said there’s no clear state legislation that law enforcement can act upon.

“Animal control has been out there,” Beddingfield said. “They are not breaking any county or state violation and that’s where we might be stuck.”

Metcalf said when temperatures get below freezing she just thinks there’s something that needs to be done. She said there’s another property she is also concerned about with dogs being left in the cold. She asked Barth if he found anything in the town’s ordinances about dogs being chained.

Barth said he looked at the town’s ordinances several times and couldn’t find anything that the town could use that would stick concerning chaining animals.

Columbus Mayor Eric McIntyre suggested the town look at its animal control ordinance like it’s doing with the town sign ordinance.

Barth said Hendersonville adopted a strict animal control ordinance that includes how long residents can leave animals out.

“Here’s going to be the issue,” Beddingfield said. “Who’s going to enforce it?”

Town attorney Bailey Nager said it would be the town’s ordinance and if the town’s regulations are more restrictive than what the county enforces then the town would have to enforce it.

Beddingfield said his department will do what council chooses but mentioned that in order to enforce animal control issues, officers would have to have rabies vaccinations and be trained.

Metcalf asked if it would be reasonable to hire an officer mainly for animal control and if there’s a situation that officer could handle it.

Beddingfield said he’s not sure if that’s feasible. He said Columbus residents also pay county taxes and the question would arise if the town is duplicating services already paid for through the county.

“We need to do something because it’s not going to get done by itself,” Metcalf said.

McIntyre asked if the dogs in question are healthy. There are two dogs on the property, with staff answering the dogs are healthy and they are always outdoors.

McIntyre said when he was growing up he had dogs that always stayed outside. He said they had a doghouse and blankets and he and his sister would cover up a dog in the doghouse and would come back to check on him and the blanket would be outside. He said he agreed with Metcalf when temperatures get extremely low and the wind is blowing there is a serious issue but also said some will say dogs are like deer.

“I just don’t like to see icicles hanging off them during this time,” Metcalf said.

Council directed Barth to get copies of other ordinances to see what other areas may do in terms of restrictions on pets outside during cold temperatures.