This proposed ordinance amends Hernando County Code Chapter 6, Animal Control. The proposed ordinance was drafted to accomplish four goals: (1) to reflect the Sheriff’s assumption of animal control enforcement duties, (2) to implement the recommendations of the Clerk’s recent audit of Animal Services, (3) to make the “dangerous dog” procedural process simpler; and (4) to make Chapter 6 easier for the public to understand by dividing it into five articles. The proposed ordinance was drafted in consultation with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
The first article covers “general issues” that pertain to all parts of the ordinance. The first article contains definitions, a statement of legislative intent, a statement of the Board’s legal authority to adopt the ordinance, a statement that the County’s regulations concerning animals supplements those enacted by the State, a provision allowing the Board to establish fees and fines by resolution, a statement that State law will prevail in the event of a conflict, a provision making it illegal to violate the ordinance, and a provision retaining the Board’s authorities to adopt such procedures deemed necessary to implement the ordinance.
The second article regulates the keeping of animals. This article readopts the bulk of Chapter 6's current animal control regulations. The article also adopts three new provisions: (1) a prohibition on keeping stray animals, (2) a provision regulation the keeping of “wild” animals, and (3) a provision regulating the “tethering” of dogs. The first and third of the foregoing provisions will bring Chapter 6 into conformity with majority of the counties’ animal control ordinances. The regulation of wild animals provision brings Chapter 6 into conformity with State laws and regulations on the subject.
The third article governs the impoundment of animals and the operation of the Animal Shelter. The Article grants the Sheriff’s Office the authority to “impound” animals found at-large. This provision essentially vests in the HCSO the impoundment authority formally vested in the County’s Animal Services’ field officers. The remainder of the Article implements many of Audit Service's audit recommendations for the Animal Shelter.
The fourth article governs “dangerous dog” proceedings. This article readopts the majority of Chapter 6's current regulations, though they have been redrafted. Since the County’s Animal Services Officers used to initiate these proceedings, the article reflects that the Sheriff will now have that authority. Pursuant to the current version of Chapter 6, dangerous dog proceedings are decided by an ad hoc board of three citizens. This procedure has proven unworkable over time, as it has been very difficult to find people willing to serve on the ad hoc board, and then to schedule a hearing at a date and time that all parties are available to attend. The proposed ordinance simplifies that procedure by having the Special Master hear dangerous dog cases in the same manner that he hears all other animal regulation cases.
The first division of the fifth article delineates the authority of the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office vis-a-vis that of the County with regard to enforcing Chapter 6. The goal of this division is to vest in the Sheriff’s Office those responsibilities formally vested in the County’s Animal Control Officers, while retaining the County’s responsibilities for the procedural mechanisms of Chapter 6 enforcement and for operation of the Animal Shelter. Put another way, the Sheriff’s Office will employ animal officers to write citations and impound animals. The County will continue doing everything else. The County Attorney’s Office will represent the animal control officers in all Special Master hearings, dangerous dog hearings, and all “unfit animal owner” proceedings. Also, the County Attorney’s Office will continue serving as the “clerk” of the Special Master. Finally, this division provides that Sheriff’s Office’s animal control officers will have immunity in any legal proceedings arising out of there duties.
The second division of the fifth article governs the enforcement of Chapter 6. This division establishes alternate enforcement mechanisms: code enforcement citations to be heard by the Special Master, or civil citations to be heard in County Court. The Special Master will be the favored enforcement mechanism.