Johnson City's proposed animal control ordinances met with support during info session

Jonathan Roberts • Oct 29, 2019 at 9:00 PM

Christy Rabetoy is tired of seeing dogs left chained for hours on end.

So are Johnson City officials.

Johnson City commissioners approved a slew of new animal control ordinances on Oct. 17 aiming to manage the local animal population, reduce the number of animals coming into the shelter and increase the quality of life for animals in the city.

The ordinance must be approved two more times before going into effect.

“Hopefully this passes,” Rabetoy said at an information meeting on the ordinances Tuesday night. “It’s just not right — I always say dogs were not meant to live their lives at the end of a chain.”

Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock, who’s also president of the city’s Animal Control Board, said she’s “fully in support of the ordinances,” and that the city spends more than $1 million “taking care of other people’s pets for them.” She also said she hopes the Washington County Commission will take up similar ordinances. 

In addition to cutting down on chaining of pets, the ordinance will also require dog owners to register their pets every year (rather than the current three-year term) at a “nominal fee.” Both Brock and Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter Director Tammy Davis said the fee will be between $5 and $10. The ordinances also give the animal shelter the ability to spay or neuter a pet after a 72-hour waiting period if the pet comes into the shelter’s doors — something Davis said will give them “some teeth.”

“I think that these ordinances will be a huge improvement to the lives of animals in our community and our city,” Davis said. “Basically, we’re kind of behind the times. There’s plenty of other cities across the country that have put these types of ordinances in place.”

More than a dozen people attended Tuesday’s information session, with most appearing to strongly favor the new regulations. Still, Davis wants residents to know the new regulations aren’t “trying to tell them exactly what they have to do with their animal” or “take their animal away.” During the meeting the ordinances were met with support from attendees, with one person saying they “want to have (the shelter’s) back,” while adding suggestions on how to improve the proposals. 

One suggestion was to provide waivers for low/fixed-income families, something Davis said will be done on a “case-by-case basis,” while another suggested discounts on microchips for pets when they register their dogs — something Brock called “a great idea.” 

Brock said she’s hopeful the new ordinances will be approved over the next two city commission meetings, and go into effect on Jan. 1. The mayor also said the city has benchmarked out all facets of the ordinances, trying to emulate the rules Asheville, North Carolina, has in place.

Carter County Commissioner Robin McKamey also attended the meeting, hoping to glean some information and ideas to take back to her commission members, saying she was “looking at changing some laws over there as well.”

“I’m looking to help animals all over the Tri-Cities,” McKamey said, adding that having Johnson City put their plan in motion “paves a pathway” for Carter County to do the same.

“It shows everyone it can be done, it just takes everyone working together,” McKamey said.

The Johnson City Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 7.