July 28, 2008

Animal Control Law Prohibits Carrying Dogs and Cats in Open-Bed Pickups: Revised Ordinance Takes Effect Friday in Parts of Walton

By Kimberly White, Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach

Jul. 28--DEFUNIAK SPRINGS -- Fido's days of free-spirited joy riding in an open-bed pickup truck are numbered in parts of Walton County.

Parts of a revised ordinance that takes effect Friday applies only to unincorporated areas and owners of cats and dogs.

The law prohibits carrying those animals in open-bed trucks or similar vehicles unless the animals are restrained by at least two tethers. The ordinance also states that even if they are tethered twice, it is illegal to carry them when the temperature is above 90 degrees or below 40 degrees.

The ordinance also forbids dog and cat owners from leaving their pets in an enclosed vehicle trunk and from leaving them in an enclosed vehicle without proper ventilation.

"We needed to make some major changes to resolve some of these issues," said Ed Baltzley, Walton County's emergency response director. "We tried to make changes all along, but for one reason or another, they didn't get done in the current year."

Baltzley said the existing ordinance hasn't been changed since the county took over animal control from the local Humane Society and law enforcement in March 2002. Therefore, the new law addresses immediate concerns while more research is conducted.

The recently formed Walton County Animal Control Advisory Committee is doing the research. It is focusing on six related issues, including spaying and neutering, sheltering and feral cats. When the committee concludes its research, it will be given to county commissioners, who likely will revise the ordinance again.

For example, committee member Bill Bard said he doesn't believe the new ordinance deals with overpopulation, the "real core of the animal-control problem that we have in the county."

"Whatever recommendations we make will be open for discussion," Bard said. "We're also seeking outside input so we have our thumb on the pulse as far as what the community wants to see."

According to committee member Ella Caro, the group meets at 4:30 p.m. every other Wednesday in a meeting room at the Walton County Tourist Development Council office. But that location is expected to change soon.

The next committee meeting will be Wednesday at the South Walton Courthouse Annex at 31 Coastal Centre Blvd. in Santa Rosa Beach.

Meanwhile, Walton County recently signed a contract with Dooley Mack Constructors of Northwest Florida to build an animal shelter on county-owned property near DeFuniak Springs. Baltzley said the shelter, which is expected to be completed next summer, will have at least 80 dog runs and 72 cages for cats, with designated quarantine areas.

Baltzley said the county is under contract with Animal Control of West Florida in Chipley through 2012, but that the agreement can be severed relatively easily.

Animal Control takes in dogs and cats and holds them for a week. It then either adopts them out or euthanizes them.

Baltzley estimates the adoption rate since 2002 to be about 25 percent.

Daily News Staff Writer

Kimberly White can be reached at 654-6905.


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Copyright (c) 2008, Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach

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