Waxhaw gets proposal, Stallings hears from sheriff
Towns across Union County continue to take steps toward tightening up animal ordinances. With the January mauling of a Waxhaw child still fresh on people’s minds, the town of Lake Park is developing its own leash law, while Waxhaw and Stallings consider their own changes.
Waxhaw commissioners got a look at the proposed changes to their ordinances Tuesday, March 22, as Police Chief Michael Eiss gave a presentation. The preliminary changes include possible limitations on the number of dogs a homeowner can keep, as well as defining what restraints and controls dog owners would have to follow. Also on the table is raising the fines for violations. What isn’t included is a ban on any specific type of dog.
“We chose not to go breed specific because of the fact that municipalities that have done that are being tied up with litigation,” Eiss said. “I felt the same thing would happen here.”
Yet another incident happened at 3:30 a.m. March 22, Eiss said, with officers responding to a call on Jackson Avenue. Eiss said two pit bulls came off Peyton Court and started wandering, before arriving at the Jackson Avenue home and killing two other dogs. Both of the pit bulls were seized and the town will hold a hearing to determine if they’re considered dangerous. Language in both the current and proposed ordinances calls for any dog declared dangerous to be removed from town. The owner doesn’t have to get rid of the animal, but they can’t bring them back to Waxhaw.
Under Union County law, sheriff’s deputies can enforce town ordinances, but lacking manpower, leave it up to town officials to enforce violations. That puts towns like Waxhaw “between a rock and a hard place” since they did not have a dedicated officer to handle calls or investigate charges
To rectify this, the town recently restored its animal-control officer position, vacant for the past four years, with the Waxhaw Police Department hire of Holly Thomas. Thomas is in the process of completing her training which includes ride-a-longs with Union County animal control officials, getting the necessary protective shots, and studying the paperwork to determine what Waxhaw will need to be functional in this capacity.
Once Thomas finishes class, her role will include public education and communication in the form of designing a website page, organizing rabies clinics and the like, Eiss said.
“I think this will be a successful program, we just need to give it time,” Eiss said.
Lake Park, Stallings look at leash laws
Other towns are in different stages of considering leash laws. Lake Park is working with the sheriff’s office attorney, Bill McGuirt, to craft a leash law that can be enforced. Sheriff Cathey said a good portion of the leash law would be adapted from the one currently used by the town of Matthews in Mecklenburg County, as it’s one of the more comprehensive. The village’s contract deputy will enforce it.
The town of Stallings meanwhile, is debating both what their version of a leash law would look like and how it would be funded.
“Stallings probably needs a leash law, but we can’t justify hiring a (new officer) because we get 10 to 12 calls a month,” Stallings Mayor Lynda Paxton said.
The question of creating a leash law is on the town survey, which will be sent out to residents in the near future. Town officials spoke with Sheriff Cathey and county commissioners about the subject during a joint meeting March 22, where they asked if a countywide law could be installed.
“It’s hard for us to do a countywide leash law, because everybody wants something different,” Cathey said. He warned town officials however not to expect a leash law to immediately solve any animal problems.
“A leash law would not have affected the death of that child (in Waxhaw),” Cathey said. “The town officers didn’t even know there was a leash law. Leash laws are not (going to help) with violent animals.”
Cathey suggested the town partner with Indian Trail or another neighbor to create a leash law that fits what they want, rather than have a ‘one size fits all’ county version. He also suggested that leash laws carry civil, rather than criminal penalties, so the towns could charge tickets for violations, but free up the courts for criminal offenses.