HAMLET — An updated ordinance approved Tuesday bans all livestock within the city limits.
The change came about after a lengthy discussion, initiated by Councilman Eddie Martin,
on animal ordinances at the City Council’s May meeting.
Hogs and fowl have been banned in Hamlet since 1976, but the city attorney added several animals to the list.
“It looks to me like it covers about anything,” said Mayor Bill Bayless, reading the amended ordinance aloud.
Animals no longer allowed include: cattle or other bovines, horses, mules, donkeys, ponies, pigs, hogs, swine, fowl, chickens, roosters, turkeys, goats and sheep.
The prohibition does not apply to any livestock that may be currently in the city limits. However, residents are forbidden from adding to the number of animals they have or replacing any that may die.
The ordinance also applies to pot-bellied pigs that may be kept inside.
City Manager Matthew Christian said that while the previous ordinance was specific to fowl, it was “ambiguous, nonetheless.”
Martin said it didn’t include horses or goats “or nothing like that.”
“See, that’s what the problem is,” Martin continued. “Suppose you want goats in your yard. If anybody’s ever heard goats make their noise, they whine like a baby … sound like a child.
“But that’s beside the point. I don’t think we should allow goats or animals like that in the city limits. If you want to have goats and horses … go out in the country.”
Just before that vote, the Council set aside an amendment to the ordinance regarding barking dogs.
That was also brought up by Martin at the previous meeting, as he recounted a story from an unnamed resident who had tried to take a neighbor to court over a barking dog, but the case was dismissed because the city’s ordinance was too vague.
The current ordinance reads: “It shall be unlawful for any owner to keep on his or her lot or premises any dog or dogs that result in unsanitary conditions, or that bark, howl, fight or make other noises as to disturb the peace and quiet of the neighborhood or the general public, and result in a neighborhood or public nuisance. Failure to abate the same upon warning from the Chief of Police, or his or her duly authorized representative, or the an animal control officer, will be a misdemeanor subject to punishment …”
Councilwoman Abbie Covington questioned how the ordinance would be enforced.
“I live on the corner of Entwistle and Main Street and dogs bark continuously because there’s people walking up and down the street,” she said.
Covington said the new proposed ordinance defined a dog that barks habitually as one that barks 10 minutes in a 15-minute period.
“Who’s keeping time?” she asked.
Martin, who apparently didn’t have a copy of the proposed amendment in front of him, said a ticket shouldn’t be written just because a dog is barking.
“I think it becomes time to do something about it when it becomes a nuisance or when it’s beside somebody’s house and they can’t sleep at night because of the dog continuously barking,” Martin said. “And I think there’s a way to determine if the dog is continuously barking that would become a nuisance to anybody.
“Nobody’s going to write a ticket because a dog is barking ten minutes or thirty minutes, for that matter. We know dogs bark, they bark at everything — most dogs do, not all dogs — but when it becomes a nuisance I think it’s time to do something about it.”
Covington said the proposal was too narrow and Martin agreed.
“You’re right, who’s gonna keep time? That don’t even make sense to me, I don’t know who put that in there.”
Councilman Oscar Sellers said dogs are “pretty good security.
“When I hear my dogs barking, and if they keep right on yappin’, well, then I know to get off my duff and go look and see what’s the problem,” Sellers said.
Martin said he agreed with that too, but added, “there’s got to be some kind of way to prevent a dog from barking … continuously all during the night.”
Sellers added, “Or day,” but Martin retorted, “Well, people don’t really worry too much about it during the day.”
Sellers said he thinks the neighbors ought to meet on peaceful terms “without shooting each other. I think they could work it out. … I think that would be a good neighbor policy.”
“You would think so, but there are people that don’t,” Martin said. “And what do you do then? You want to resort to the police, you resort to the city council or the city manager to find out what can be done, you resort to the chief of police — nothing’s being done. Something’s got to be done.”
Councilman Maurice Stuart asked if they could look at similar ordinances from other municipalities to see how things are done elsewhere to give the city attorney direction.
Christian said this was just the first draft.
“If there’s additional input or other terms or things that we want to look at, we can certainly do that before adopting the ordinance,” Christian said.
The city manager added that he and the attorney had discussed taking the civil penalty route instead of going through the court system.
Councilman Jesse McQueen said that was probably a better option because the way the ordinance is written, there likely won’t be a conviction and seldom be probable cause to even issue a ticket.
“I’m not knocking the criminal justice system at all, but there’s major assaults getting dismissed,” McQueen said, adding all the time and money tied up in a court case. “It’s going to wind up costing you five or six hundred dollars to go to court to watch them dismiss it.”
Covington added that enforcement ties up the officers of the Hamlet Police Department — “They’ve got bigger things to do.”
Martin, in response to concerns about convictions, recalled when a jaywalking case was successfully prosecuted.
“The district attorney was on with us because we explained it to him,” Martin said. “If we explain to the DA why this charge is being made, it’s a different story … when it becomes a problem, the DA and his assistants will do something about it.”
When Sellers asked about constantly barking indoor dogs, Martin said he hasn’t heard any such complaints.
“We don’t really have a dog issue, we have an owner issue,” Bayless said.
The city attorney will take everything into consideration and bring back several options at the next meeting.