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Grifton officials continue to tweak animal, nuisance ordinances


By Jake Keator
The Times-Leader

Saturday, February 17, 2018

GRIFTON — The Grifton Board of Commissioners continued revising the town’s animal control ordinances at a workshop session earlier this month, to combat the high number of stray and feral cat colonies within the city limits.

The town has partnered with Pitt County Animal Control to help with the issue.

Citizens have complained to the board on several occasions regarding barking dogs and cats destroying property in the area.

Grifton resident Russell Bowens said he is displeased with the lack of action taken by town officials and the Grifton Police Department.

“I work late shifts; I sleep in the day,” Bowens said. “I can hear my neighbor’s dogs barking clearly from inside my house. I need to be able to get my rest.

“I came to the board in 2002 and told them about my problem,” he said. “I’ve talked with several police chiefs over the years as well, and I’ve been told there’s nothing we can do.”

Grifton Manager Joe Johnson presented the board more than 20 changes to town ordinances regarding animals and disturbances. The proposed changes are modeled after Onslow County’s ordinance, Johnson said.

He made the wording as concise as possible, Johnson said.

“We don’t want to confuse people and have them saying, ‘Well this one says this and the town’s ordinance says this,’” he said.

Mayor Billy Ray Jackson said he was concerned about the limited hours that determine if a barking dog is a public nuisance.

A replacement to Title IX, Section 90.23 on animal noises states, “Any such sound made by an animal or animals, which is made continuously for more than 15 minutes during any 30 minutes period between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. shall be deemed an annoying sound.”

“We just heard from Mr. Bowens; when the (DuPont) plant was here we had just as many people going to work at night as we did in the day,” Jackson said. “Those third-shift workers need their sleep too.”

Removing the time definition could “punish the majority,” leaving those who work regular hours to possibly receive fines due to the time of day their dogs are barking, Johnson said.

Commissioners Mary Grace Bright and Will Barnes agreed that no matter the time of day, a responsible pet owner should control the noise their pet makes.

Commissioner Claude Kennedy agreed.

“No matter what kind or how many pets they have, people need to be responsible owners,” he said.

Bright also voiced concerns about the proposed changes in the ordinance.

The revised definition of a kennel states, “The keeping, boarding, or harboring of five or more dogs over the age of six months and/or three or more of any other domesticated animal over the age of six months for any reason.”

“Why are there different amounts for dogs and cats?” Bright asked Johnson.

The numbers were could be altered or removed, Johnson said.

“I don’t really care how many they have, as long as they take care of them and they aren’t keeping me up at night,” Barnes said.

Bright questioned an addition regarding the placement of microchips in captured roaming animals and pets.

“It is already in Pitt County’s ordinances. I was asked to work on feral cats,” Johnson said.

Bright said, “No, we did not ask for you to work on feral cats. We asked for animal ordinances.”

A definition of ownership became a subject of debate during the discussion.

A proposed ordinance declared that those who are caught feeding stray or feral cats could be considered owners of the animals, and become liable for any damages they may cause.

“One feral cat colony will not invade another’s territory,” Bright said. “We have people who are capturing the cats and taking them to be spayed/neutered and then return them to the area. If they keep doing that they will eventually die out. I don’t want to see people who are helping fix the problem at risk of getting sued.”

Pitt County Animal Shelter volunteers locate bands of feral cats and trap them. Once at the shelter, the kittens are put up for adoption and older cats are returned to Grifton. Those cats then do not reproduce and eventually pass away, helping to lower the roaming cat population, Bright said.

No official action was taken. The board is continuing to tweak the ordinance.

The Times Leader serves southern Pitt County including Ayden, Grifton and Winterville.