Porterdale may amend pet ruling

PORTERDALE - Pet owners in Porterdale could soon be required to register their animals at City Hall if an amended animal control ordinance is approved by the City Council.

Council members approved the first and second readings of the amended ordinance at their regular meeting Monday night; a third reading and a public hearing will be required before the council votes on the ordinance.

City Attorney Tim Chambers said the most significant changes to the ordinance include the registration requirement, the addition of some definitions and some requirements related to the care and housing of animals.

"We had an old ordinance that was based on Newton County's - it wasn't the same as Newton County's, but it was predominately based on the Newton County ordinance," Chambers said Wednesday. "This combines our previous ordinance, the Newton County ordinance and portions of the DeKalb County ordinance."

The current ordinance is seven pages long, while the proposed ordinance is more than double that page count.

Under the proposed ordinance, residents will be required to register each pet - cat, dog or ferret - at City Hall within 60 days of the effective date of the ordinance. At that time, pet owners must fill out a registration form, provide a certificate from a veterinarian showing current rabies vaccination and pay $5 per animal registered. Owners must also renew the registration for each animal on an annual basis.

Registration fees are earmarked for use in the animal control program. City Councilwoman Linda Finger, who worked on the ordinance changes, said the fees will be used to purchase additional cages to capture feral animals. Any excess fees will be contributed to the county's animal control efforts, she said.

Finger also said she is working to bring a mobile veterinary clinic to Porterdale in order to make it easier for residents to get their animals vaccinated.

Failure to register an animal will be considered a criminal offense to be heard in the city's Municipal Court. Each dog, cat or ferret that an owner fails to register will be considered a separate offense, under the proposed ordinance. A first-time conviction will carry a minimum $25 fine; a subsequent offense within a 12-month period will carry a $50 fine.

In terms of animal care, the proposed ordinance does not allow animals to be tethered, although they can be attached to a running cable line or trolley system.

In addition, the proposed ordinance limits the number of animals that can be lawfully kept by an owner to three per dwelling, although owners who have more than three at the time the ordinance takes effect will be grandfathered. An owner whose animal has a litter that increases the number of animals owned to more than three or that increases the number of animals greater than the number "grandfathered" will have 90 days in which to remove the excess number of animals.

Mayor Bobby Hamby said residents will be notified in advance of the changes in the ordinance. City Manager Tom Fox said a letter to residents will be included in the next water bill and that notification will be placed on the city's Web site, www.cityofporterdale.com, and at City Hall.

The proposed changes in the animal control ordinance are the result of efforts by Porterdale resident Nancy Naya, who sought the council's input on the problem of unwanted cats and dogs in Porterdale. Because Porterdale is populated largely by renters, Naya asked the council to enact an ordinance that would address the predicament of cats and dogs left behind when their owners moved away.

Naya was asked by the council to spearhead the effort in July and she formed a citizens advisory committee to work on changes to the ordinance.

Alice Queen can be reached at alice.queen@rockdalecitizen.com.