Town revisiting laws to prevent another tragedy
In the town where 5-year-old Makayla Woodward was killed during a pit bull mauling, Waxhaw officials have been busy “performing due diligence,” according to Town Manager Mike McLaurin, in an attempt to prevent another tragedy like this from occurring again. This process began shortly after the pit bull attack.
Together with Police Chief Mike Eiss, they are in what Eiss described as “the beginning stages” with hopes of presenting an outline of recommended changes to the town’s animal control ordinances as well as plans for enforcing them. McLaurin will present these suggestions to the Waxhaw Board of Commissioners during its second meeting in March.
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.
Animal Control new hire
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, explained Eiss.
Giving the town even more enforcement muscle, Thomas will have full use of the town’s recently purchased Animal Control truck, according to McLaurin. Currently, about half the truck’s outfitting is complete, Eiss said. Both Thomas and the truck should be ready, Eiss anticipated, by the time the town’s ordinances are in place.
Once Thomas hits the ground running, her role will include public education and communication in the form of a website page, rabies clinics and the like.
Old laws revisited
“We’re looking at what other towns have done, held several internal discussions and looked at many of the laws on our books,” McLaurin explained. Among other things, they are reviewing 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, Eiss said.
“We want something on the books that we can be proactive about in every way, and that will not hold the process up once an ordinance is in place,” Eiss said. This will likely include language that is animal, and not dog, specific. McLaurin envisions the town working with local residents and animal groups to devise a plan that works for all, and to minimize the likelihood of another animal attack.