Johnson City officially approves new animal control ordinance

David Floyd • Updated Nov 22, 2019 at 8:22 AM

New rules designed to improve the lives of pets in Johnson City and help alleviate crowded conditions at the local animal shelter have cleared their final hurdle.

Now, officials are setting their sights on Washington County.

Johnson City commissioners approved on third and final reading Thursday a new ordinance that phases out the placement of animals on chains in Johnson City, requires owners to register their dogs on an annual basis and makes it easier for the shelter to spay and neuter animals that end up in its care.

“We’re overly excited for the fact that the mayor and the commissioners saw the need that we have and realized that this is the right thing to do,” Tammy Davis, the director of the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter, said after the meeting.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, a dog or puppy can be placed on a trolley or pulley system in the owner’s yard for no more than 12 consecutive hours per day, according to the ordinance. The dog cannot be tethered for the 12-hour period to a fixed post unless attended or under observation. The animals must have appropriate housing, access to food and water and be safe from attack by other animals.

Starting Jan. 1, 2021, the ordinance requires that no dog be left unattended while tethered or chained outside. Dogs and puppies can only be tethered to a fixed object if the animal is under observation by its owner. Puppies under six months old cannot be tethered or placed on a trolley or pulley system. After Jan. 1, 2021, failure to comply with these changes will result in a fine. After three violations, the ordinance says owner will have to surrender the animal to the shelter.

Unless the dog or cat qualifies for an “unaltered certificate,” which gives an exemption, the ordinance also allows the shelter to spay or neuter animals that enter its care after a waiting period of three business days. The owners will pay the cost of vaccinations and surgical alterations when they reclaim the animal.

Owners will also have to get a registration certificate for dogs over 3 months old from the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter on an annual basis.

Commissioners approved the ordinance with some minor changes to the version they approved two weeks ago on second reading.

Among other amendments, rabies vaccines will not be given to animals less than 3 months old or surrendered animals with a traceable history that indicates they do not need a vaccination. The shelter’s waiting period for spaying or neutering an animal was also changed from 72 hours to three business days. It also makes it clear that any person who gets a new dog will have 10 days to register the animal.

“Our hard work is now just beginning,” Davis said.

Going forward, Davis said the shelter wants to educate the public on the approved changes and help them stay in compliance with the new ordinance.

“Nothing is going to happen overnight,” she said. “This is going to be a process that we’re going to work through and just do what we can to make sure people are in compliance with the new ordinances.”

Davis said the shelter has not yet presented the changes to Washington County commissioners. As is, they will only apply to city residents.

“We felt it would be a great step if we could get it passed in the city, and then now we’ll move forward and present it to commissioners in the county,” Davis said.

She said surrounding cities, including Kingsport and Bristol, have reached out to Johnson City to review the ordinance.

Zoning and annexation

Johnson City commissioners approved on second reading annexing roughly three acres on Christian Church Road into the city limits and assigning the land a zoning designation — planned arterial business. The changes would lay the groundwork for the construction of an office building for a substance abuse treatment facility on the property, according to the annexation request submitted to the city.

Nearby residents have expressed concern about the impact a substance abuse treatment center would have on their neighborhood. Attempts by the Johnson City Press to reach the applicant, Rosalea Proffitt, were unsuccessful on Thursday afternoon. The three-acre plot is part of a larger 35-acre parcel owned by Billy and Rosalea Proffitt, according to Tennessee property information.

The board also approved on second reading a request to rezone an almost 12-acre parcel on Greenwood Drive from R-2 to RP-3, which would enable the construction a roughly 66-lot subdivision. Vice Mayor Joe Wise recused himself.

Nearby residents had expressed concerns about the project, including the values of homes and the potential uptick in traffic produced by the development. The city conducted a traffic count on Willow Springs Road, which will be the main entrance and exit for the subdivision, and determined the additional traffic would be suitable for the road.

“Based on those numbers and based on analysis that has been conducted by our engineering department, they have not found that this would have a negative impact on our surrounding street network,” Mitchell said.

Commissioners will hear public comment on both the annexation and rezoning request on third reading.