The Porterdale City Council unanimously approved an amended animal ordinance Monday that requires residents to register their pets yearly by showing proof of rabies vaccinations. Registration fees are $5 per pet per year.
The original draft of the policy requires new residents to have no more than three animals per dwelling unit (residents with more than three at the effective date may register all of their animals but may not replace them if they perish or become lost).
At Monday night’s meeting, council members added a restriction on residences with multiple dwelling units. Each unit in a multiple dwelling residences — such as the Porterdale Mill Lofts or the many duplexes in the town — may house no more than two pets. Residents with more pets than the limit at the time of the effective date are grandfathered in as well.
A few of residents asked questions and shared their opinion of the ordinance during public comment times at the meeting.
Sherri Smith came to speak on the behalf of her mother, who is in her 80s and a resident of Porterdale.
"She is very stressed out about the leash law on cats," Smith said.
Smith said both cats are more than 12 years old and would more than likely not take to a leash. She asked the board to reconsider applying the leash law to dogs only.
"If they are vaccinated, she comes down and registers them, if they stay in her house or on her property and ther’re not a nuisance to anyone else," said Councilmember Linda Finger, "then she’s probably not going to have any issues."
Finger added that cats left to breed and wander the streets of Porterdale were a large part of why she pushed to amend the town’s animal policies.
Leigh Vaughn, a Porterdale homeowner, also addressed her concerns about the ordinance to the council. She said that since buying her home in Porterdale five years ago, she has seen her neighbors arrested, evicted and put out by fire — then abandon their pets.
"Seeing all this, I agree with most of this ordinance, but what I don’t agree with is the registration of pets. It seems to me that while you say you have to do a blanket ordinance to cover everyone in the city, as a homeowner I feel like I am being penalized because I am a responsible homeowner, I am a responsible pet owner."
She said that her pets are vaccinated yearly; her dogs have graduated from obedience school and are always on a lease when they are outside.
"What I would like to see is instead of our police officers being relegated to dog catchers I would like to see some code enforcement and the laws that are already on the books be enforced instead of creating new ordinances and new laws that are basically just going to penalize a minority of residents because, let’s face, it I am a minority, I am one of the few homeowners in Porterdale."
She continued saying that there must be a better way to target problem renters and that if a resident had the space, money and physical capability then the council should not interfere.
"We can’t make everybody happy," Finger said of creating a blanket ordinance affecting all residents of the city. She added that the ordinance also protects rental property owners from excessive damage done to their homes by uncontrolled pets.
New violations of the ordinance include:
• Not immediately removing animal excrement from streets and rights-of-way
• Animals vocalizing continuously for 15 minutes or intermittently for 30 minutes unless alerting the owners to an intruder’s presence
• Animals not restrained within 100 feet of space
• Tethering animals excluding with a running cable or trolley system
• Housing a hazardous animal without consent from the police chief
• Transporting animals in open-air vehicles without proper restraints
• Not placing signage notifying of a guard dog on a premises
• Housing more than three animals in one dwelling
• Not disposing of litters that place owners in excess of animal limit within 90 days
• Not spaying or neutering a puppy or kitten by the time it reaches 6 months old or within 30 days of adopting an adult dog or cat.
While fines issued to violating residents may be used for general purposes by the council, registration fees will be donated to the Newton County Animal Shelter for any increased volume they incur because of the stricter ordinance.
Finger said a mobile vaccination unit will be on hand for town residents registering their pets from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 11 and 25. The fee for each animal vaccinated is $10.
The ordinance will take effect on March 1.
In other news from Porterdale’s Monday city council meeting:
• A beer, wine and distilled spirits license was issued to the Elks Lodge on Crowell Road. The motion to approve the license was made by Linda Finger and seconded by Arline Chapman.
• The board authorized the sale of the city’s extra water and sewage capacity to Newton County for $400,000.
• The city will hold a special called election to fill the vacant Post 5 seat, formerly held by Kay Piper, March 17. Piper resigned the post in November before her term expired. City Manager Tom Fox was selected as the absentee ballot clerk and Bobby Jack Savage will serve as poll manager.