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County approves new animal control ordinance
Forsyth County

After some back and forth, Forsyth County has approved new rules to help protect pets in the county.

Forsyth County Commissioners voted 5-0 on Thursday to approve new rules for the tethering of animals, changes to the adoption of animals from county shelters and other changes meant to protect local pets. 

Under the ordinance, animals cannot be tethered when the dog is not in the “physical presence” of the owner or custodian.  Tethers are also considered “excessively heavy” if they weigh more than 10 percent of the dog’s weight and must be connected to the collar. 

There are tethering exceptions for those working with animals, such as vets and groomers. 

Those adopting from the county shelter will also be affected and will now have to sign paperwork certifying they have not been convicted of animal cruelty or neglect in 10 years. 

“We didn’t want to require background checks because we felt that it would make people not even want to adopt animals for the shelter, but they will need to certify,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

Jarrard said there were state penalties for falsifying the information.

The final ordinance also removed a requirement for permitting for those working with animals, which Jarrard said was “probably the most discussed topics at the last stakeholder meeting.” 

“At the latest stakeholder meeting, there was — at least I gathered — a strong consensus that that permitting requirement would not have the intended effect,” Jarrard said.

At a previous public hearing, many speakers raised issues with veterinarians and their employees not being required to get the permits.

Instead, businesses working with animals will have to certify they are familiar with resources from the sheriff’s office to report neglect or cruelty and requiring the businesses to report those violations.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard went through some changes from a previously discussed version of the ordinance and clarified some definitions. 

The ordinance also prohibits those convicted of animal cruelty or neglect from owning an animal for at least a year, which can be extended by a judge. 

A new animal cruelty ordinance has been sought in the county since the death of a dog named Meko, who died while being groomed at Paw’sh Paws in Cumming in October.

Since then, the county has gone back and forth with those working in the industry to make necessary changes.

During the public hearing, county resident Vicki Tittle praised the tethering portion of the ordinance and said the ordinance would give the county something to build on in the future. 

“You’re not only safeguarding the well-being of animals but also safeguarding citizens as well when you promote good anti-tethering laws,” she said. “The passing of the anti-tethering amendment as it is written will put Forsyth County in alignment with the other large Georgia counties.”