County tightens up leash law

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On Tuesday morning, March 2, the Franklin County commission tightened up the animal control ordinance, requiring that leashes be shorter and used at all times on the county’s public beaches.

In addition, the county put in place terms of the inter-local agreements that it is proposing to both Apalachicola and Carrabelle.

The motion passed 4-1, with Jessica Ward opposed.

The proposed amendments drawn up by County Attorney Michael Shuler in accordance with suggestions from the county commissioners, amended the original 2001 ordinance, last amended in 2017 to include the cities of Apalachicola and Carrabelle within the service area. 

The proposed 2021 amendment to the ordinance would exclude the cities of Apalachicola and Carrabelle from the service area unless either, or both, cities enter into an interlocal agreement with the county.

County Coordinator Michael Morón has said he has agreement with the city of Apalachicola that they will pay $3,500 this fiscal year to fulfill their obligation, and then review the total number of calls at the conclusion of the year to see if further modification is needed.

Apalachicola County Manager Travis Wade said that based on discussions with Animal Control Director Fonda Davis, Police Chief Bobby Varnes and Morón, the city has agreed to provide a police officer to respond to calls where it is warranted. He said a procedure is being drawn up to use to decide whether to dispatch an officer.

In accordance with a request from Commissioner Smokey Parrish, Morón has forwarded the proposal to Carrabelle City Administrator Courtney Dempsey to give Carrabelle equal consideration.

Carrabelle commissioners voted a few months ago to voice their displeasure at being asked to pay any amount, and asked that any additional costs of the countywide animal control department be covered by raising the county’s ad valorem millage accordingly, without a separate fee to the cities.

Carrabelle City Commissioner Mel Kelly asked county commissioners whether they would charge more to residents of St. George island or Lanark Village or Alligator Point, based on the distance traveled by deputies who respond to calls in these unincorporated areas.

“Will a sheriff’s deputy in those locations be expected to wait for animal control?” she asked. ”Why are cities closest to the animal control site being charged extra for this service? I feel the cities are being penalized in this effort and I fail to understand why that is happening and what the thinking is of the commissioners (regarding services) being provided under regular taxation amounts to the rest of Franklin County.”

Eastpoint’s Murray Harrison spoke in favor of the ordinance, citing a collection of dogs, including bulldogs, that he said are frequently out of control in his Daisy Street neighborhood.

“I hope sincerely they will deal with this,” he said.

Based on an executive summary of the ordinance prepared by Shuler, the new law would provide dogs to be on six-foot leashes at public beaches, parks, boat ramps, and parking areas. The definition of public beaches would include “sand flats on the various rivers."

At all other locations, the leash may be no more than 20 feet in length. 

Voice control would not be allowed at any public beach, public boat ramp, public park or public parking area. 

The amendment would increase the fines for interference with an Animal Control Officer from $50 first offense, $75 for second and $250 for subsequent offenses, to $150, $250 and $500.

Fines for having an animal Running at Large, or for it being a Prohibited Public Nuisance would be boosted from $30, $75 and $250; to $75, $150 and $250. 

“We’ve been dealing with this stuff long enough,” said Commissioner Noah Lockley. “For a long time when I came on the board we didn’t have no interlocal agreement.

“This is what you get when you start doing favors,” he said. “We’re not overcharging. I don’t see why the city of Carrabelle is not agreeing.”

Lockley said the $3,500 being charged the cities, and a police escort when necessary, is necessary and reasonable. “Do the math,” he said. “If they have to hire somebody, they got to house them dogs, they got to feed the dog, they have to take them to the vet.”

Lockley moved, and Parrish seconded the motion, adding that he too felt the county had acted reasonably and fairly in seeking additional funds to cover the cities.

He said it was originally for $7,000 and included hiring another animal control officer, with a vehicle, that would have costs much more.

“It’s not like the county was trying to stiff either municipality,” he said. “Sounds like some people don’t want to be part of the solution.

“It’s a no brainer, it’s a very cheap solution,” Parrish said.

“It’s a simple revenue sharing structure, that’s all this is,” said Chairman Ricky Jones. “It’s not a double taxation.”

He said he supported the proposed leash lengths but “it can always be changed later if it’s a problem.”

Shuler noted that the county is obligated to provide service to the cities only because it embarked on an experiment in 2017. “This board is trying to provide a service that it is otherwise not required to do,” he said.

This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: County tightens up leash law

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