ALBANY — The green mile looks to get shorter for dogs in Albany deemed to pose a threat to people with the adoption of changes to the city’s dangerous dog ordinance.
The impetus for Ward IV Commissioner Chad Warbington in pushing for a change was a pair of dogs involved in a near-fatal attack on an Albany man in 2019. The change in the ordinance will not affect the disposition of the case for those rottweilers, King and Chloe.
But it could make the process of euthanizing dogs deemed dangerous move more rapidly in the future.
“It says that in a situation where (there is) a hearing before the Animal Control Board, a dog is found to be a dangerous dog, that dog can be turned over to an animal control facility or euthanized in an expeditious and humane manner,” City Attorney Nathan Davis said during a telephone interview following the meeting.
In the event a dog is deemed dangerous, the board has the authority to impose conditions on the owner, including a requirement to provide liability insurance coverage for them, construct fencing and kennel to ensure the dog cannot escape the owner’s control and other requirements. In such a case, the owner would have 15 days to comply with state law and city ordinances for ensuring maintenance control over the animal, or the dog could be put down.
Dog owners who disagree with a decision could make an appeal to Dougherty County Superior Court, Davis said.
“We have an ordinance to declare a dog dangerous and then really nothing happens,” Warbington said of the ordinance previously on the books. “We’ve got two dangerous dogs that have been held for nearly three years. We can’t allow this to continue to happen in our city.”
Warbington was joined in approving the changes to the ordinance by Commissioners B.J. Fletcher, Matt Fuller, Jon Howard and Bob Langstaff. Ward VI Commissioner Demetrius Young voted against the measure, with Mayor Bo Dorough abstaining.
“That’s a big deal,” Warbington said of the changes during a telephone interview. “Prior to today, the city ordinance pertaining to dangerous dogs, euthanasia was not part of the ordinance. We’ve had numerous incidents around the city. We’re talking about situations where some citizens were seriously injured or nearly killed.
“Unfortunately, what happens is most people with dangerous dogs do not comply with the requirements. Obviously, this is so much more than we had before.”
Warbington said he would like the commission to address animal control broadly in early 2022, including the topic of an agreement with the Albany Humane Society. Currently the Humane Society is housing dogs for animal control, but there is no contract in place.
“I think the Humane Society does a great job with strays, lost dogs,” Warbington said.
The mayor explained that there were some changes he would like to have seen included in the ordinance.
“I agree with the objective,” he said. “I just have issues with provisions of the ordinance as referenced.”
Because issues raised by Dorough were not addressed and there was no opportunity given for public input, Young said he thought the commission was moving too fast in adopting the ordinance on Thursday.
“I’m kind of concerned about the process in all of this,” he said. “I don’t see where we got any input from the Humane Society. I know there are other groups, animal rights advocates.
“I’m just worried about passing something without having a fair and open public hearing. It pushes something that’s very controversial — animal euthanasia — without having a public hearing.”
As for King and Chloe, their day in Superior Court is set for Feb. 28, Davis said. The owner had appealed an earlier decision to have them euthanized, and scheduling the appeal has been slowed down due to courts being closed for long periods of time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thursday’s ordinance changes will not impact that case, which predates the new dangerous dog requirements.