Columbia County officials are hoping that stricter regulations for reporting barking dogs will keep animal-control workers out of the path of feuding neighbors.
County commissioners Tuesday approved an updated animal-nuisance ordinance that increases the number of complaints required before a dog is considered a public annoyance.
Earlier this year, animal-control officials began noticing an increase of calls in what they suspected were cases of dog-owning neighbors harassing each other.
"There just was not a lot of definition of what is a nuisance for barking dogs," Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker said about the previous law. "Is it one bark? Is it 30 minutes of continuous barking?"
She said the section of the county's ordinance against animals running loose remained unchanged under the newest version.
But the law's revision now means that a pet owner has to receive a warning and two neighbors must file complaints against about an overly barking dog before the owner is cited.
"That will hopefully keep animals from barking and being a nuisance and prevent animal control being used as a tool between neighbor disputes," Tucker said.
Under the ordinance, an animal will not be considered a nuisance if it is barking at a person trespassing on the property where it is being kept or if someone is intentionally trying to incite the animal.
An animal that is found to be a nuisance can be impounded, and its owner can be charged.
In an unrelated pet matter, county commissioners voted to adopt new fees for the county's animal incinerator, thereby making it available to owners and veterinarians for cremations.
The county will charge pet owners from Columbia County or surrounding areas $75 per animal if the ashes are returned to owners. Cremations without the returned ashes will cost $25, and urns will cost $10.
The county will charge veterinarians $10 to dispose of an animal.
Two area pet crematorium owners had objected to the services because they argued it would unfairly compete with their businesses.
Also at Tuesday's meeting:
* Tucker announced that Columbia County soon will be equipped with east Georgia's only emergency mobile command vehicle. The county received a $448,000 federal homeland security grant, which was approved by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, to purchase and equip the vehicle. A 40-foot recreational vehicle will be converted into a state-of-the-art communications center.
"It will be able to communicate with any department anywhere in the state," Tucker said.
The RV will be equipped with satellites, generators and communications equipment capable of linking the communications of various state emergency agencies. Though based in Columbia County, the mobile command vehicle will be able to travel to any disaster site or rescue effort in Georgia and serve as a command center.
* In an effort to get more use out of the county's Eubank Blanchard Community Center, commissioners approved new rates for event rentals and meetings at the facility.
The county will charge $165 to rent out the center as well as a $200 refundable damage deposit. Meetings will be charged $15 an hour if they do not require support staff and $35 an hour if workers are needed. For meetings, there will be a $30 set-up fee, but a deposit will not be required.
Staff writer Donnie Fetter contributed to this article.
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