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Animal control ordinance changed
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The Newton County Board of Commissioners adopted a revised version of their animal control ordinance at their Dec. 4 board meeting.

Jenny Carter with the county attorney's office presented the board with the new ordinance and discussed the changes. Carter said the animal control ordinance needed to be revised due to the changes that were made to the state law earlier this year in dealing with dangerous and vicious dogs.

"The ordinance before you tonight has some minor changes to just make sure that our ordinance is consistent with the current state law," Carter said.

Carter said one of the changes is to expand the definition of owner to include the person exercising control over the animal.

According to the new animal ordinance, under Section II of Enforcement and Violations, Item F, now reads as follows:

"The owner or, if no owner can be found, the custodian exercising care and control over any dog which while off the owner's or custodian's property causes injury, death, or damage directly or indirectly to any livestock, poultry or pet animal shall be civilly liable to the owner of the livestock, poultry or pet animal for injury, death, or damage caused by the dog. The owner or, if no owner can be found, the custodian exercising care and control over any dog shall be liable for and damage caused by such dog."

Carter said there are also state law exceptions to animal cruelty charges if someone is defending another person, their property, livestock or pet.

The new animal control ordinance now includes these changes, which now reads as follows under Section III of Humane Treatment of Animals, Item H:

"No person shall commit the offense of cruelty to animals by causing death or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering to any animal by an act, an omission, or willful neglect except that a person may (1) defend his or her person or property, or the person or property of another, from injury or damage being caused by a dog or (2) kill any dog causing injury or damage to any livestock or poultry or pet animal. The offense of cruelty to animals is also punishable under state law."

Carter told the board that the other changes made to the animal control ordinance incorporate the new responsible job ownership law, which deals with dangerous and vicious dogs. She said the term "potentially dangerous dogs" is no longer the terminology used and it has been replaced with "dangerous and vicious dogs." Changes under Section VI of Dangerous, Vicious and Aggressive Animals Item A, Dangerous and Vicious Dogs now states the following:

" (1) Dangerous dogs shall be investigated, classified, controlled and possessed in strict ordinance with the Georgia Dangerous Dog Control Law, as the same shall be amended from time to time."

The section continues to replace "potentially dangerous dogs" with "dangerous and vicious dogs."

The Georgia Responsible Dog Owner Act was signed into law in May by Governor Nathan Deal. Under the law, a "dangerous dog" means any dog that causes a puncture wound to a person, or aggressively attacks posing an imminent threat of serious injury to a person, or while off the owner's property kills a pet.

According to the ordinance, a copy of the "Responsible Dog Ownership Law" was attached to the ordinance for reference.

During the meeting, Commissioner Nancy Schulz made the motion to approve the changes to the ordinance. She added that she and Commissioner Tim Fleming have worked hard on the tethering - the act of tying or chaining animals to stationary objects - section of the ordinance, but there was still work that needed to be done.