We shouldn’t need laws with respect to ownership of pets. But because some abuse them, fail to provide shelter or food, or allow them to run at large, various state and local regulations have become necessary, and Kingsport may be adding several more after the first of the year.
Responsible pet owners will welcome new regulations as long overdue.
The new attention to animal care in the city results from establishment of the Kingsport Neighborhood Commission several years ago to serve as a liaison agency between government and residents. Members quickly found that dog waste on private property was a major concern of residents.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen looked at all ordinances dealing with animals and reached out to individuals and groups including PETWORKS to get feedback. That process found four focus areas dealing with dogs: noise, waste, providing essentials, and tethering.
Several of these issues are controlled. Current code prohibits noises — constantly barking dogs — that constitute a nuisance, says Bart Rowlett, assistant city attorney. “With what’s already on the books, if citizens complain, those could be presented to the enforcing agency.”
Another concern already handled by existing law is with the owner providing adequate food, water and shelter. Rowlett said state law already speaks to this with the prohibition of cruelty to animals, which means Kingsport won’t likely create a new ordinance about this issue.
Two concerns not spelled out in city code have to do with pet waste and the tethering of dogs. According to Rowlett, a pet waste ordinance could be something along the lines of: anyone who owns or is in control of an animal, unless they have the consent of the property owner, must remove the waste from the property. It would apply to both dogs and cats, on public or private property.
“We’re not sure how widely it’s enforced (in neighboring cities),” Rowlett said. “In a hypothetical situation, if an animal (leaves waste) on a property and you identify who the animal belongs to and in fact it did occur, it’ll be up to the city judge to decide what to do with it.”
The final focus area — tethering of animals — is also not addressed in city code. Johnson City and Bristol have prohibitions against it, and Kingsport is considering an ordinance of its own, Rowlett said.
“We’d be proposing language of what a tethering system looks like, the certain length of device and to make sure the animal is safe and comfortable with access to food, water and shelter,” Rowlett said.
This process has answered a question residents have long had about who to call for various animal issues. The answer: PETWORKS. It is the primary enforcement authority with the same power as police officers, said City Manager Chris McCartt.
We and other residents appreciate the city acting to protect our furry friends and our property.