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September 21, 2014

Animal control committee proposes fines to strengthen Heflin licensing law

After appointments made in March, group met Monday

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Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014 9:40 pm | Updated: 5:18 pm, Wed Jun 11, 2014.

HEFLIN — The Heflin Animal Control Committee in its first meeting Monday proposed one measure to make the city’s animal control codes easier to enforce and another to bring a low-cost spay and neuter program to the city.

The committee was created in the city’s animal control ordinance in 2009, but members were never appointed. The City Council appointed committee members in March after the oversight was discovered.

In Monday’s first meeting, William Chapman, the city’s animal control officer, explained to the members some of the difficulties he faces in trying to enforce the city’s ordinances.

For instance, the city has a law requiring pet owners to bring proof of a rabies vaccination and buy licenses for their pets each year. The license helps the city keep track of residents’ pets so that if they do get out of the home they can be returned to their owners. It also helps the city know that all pets within the city limits are being vaccinated, Chapman said.

However, the city took in just over $280 in license fees in the 2012-13 fiscal year, said Shane Smith, Heflin City Clerk. There are many more than 93 pets in the city, he said.

If Chapman does find an unlicensed pet, there’s not much he can do to enforce the law, he said.

“I can write a warning citation,” Chapman said.

There was no fine or penalty written into the ordinance when it was created, Smith said.

It would help to create a schedule of fines that would give the city’s animal laws some teeth, said Heflin police Chief A. J. Benefield.

“We can go up and say you need to do this, you need to do this,” Benefield said. “But then if you don’t have any kind of punishment for them not doing it, you can’t enforce it.”

The committee decided it would try to come up with a fine schedule based on what other cities in the area are doing. Smith said he would tell the City Council members at their meeting today about the committee’s intention and get their feedback on introducing fines for violations of the city’s animal control laws.

Committee member Karen McKenzie, though, said the committee should also be discussing proactive measures to reduce the stray population in the city.

“We’re talking about control,” McKenzie said. “But we need to talk about prevention.”

Chapman told the members Calhoun County participates in a program that transports pets to the Alabama Spay and Neuter Clinic in Irondale. He’s spoken to the administrators and they would be willing to come to Heflin if a group of volunteers would handle the paperwork and organization, Chapman said.

Smith charged the members with finding two volunteers each who would be willing to help organize the transportation program.

In other business the committee members:

  • Appointed Coker Cleveland as chairman and George Iliff as vice chairman.
  • Discussed putting together a program to educate city residents about the city’s animal control laws and the importance of spaying and neutering pets.
  • Discussed looking for grants or other funding sources to help pay for the animal control program. The program costs the city about $60,000 a year.

 

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