Conway may look to limit number of pets residents can own

sjones@thesunnews.comAugust 26, 2012 

— Residents of River City may no longer have free reign on the number of pets they keep at their homes if the City Council turns recommendations by police Chief Reggie Gosnell into amendments to its animal ordinance.

Gosnell said the changes he proposed during a council workshop last week were just recommendations, but added that police officers need some direction in handling complaints about unleashed dogs and feral cats.

The recommendations address a number of things, including the minimum responsibilities owners must adhere to in order not to risk having their animals seized for neglect, what police can do if animals are left inside a vehicle and its safety is in jeopardy, and requirements for control over guard and attack dogs as well as signage necessary to alert passersby that the dogs are on adjoining property.

The recommendations also include a maximum of four pets – dogs, cats, birds – at any residence.

Councilwoman Jean Timbes asked what the city would do if the ordinance changes were made as recommended and someone already had more than the maximum number of pets it prescribed.

Perhaps, Gosnell said, owners should be given 90 days to 120 days to make other arrangements for the excess.

The time could be whatever council members decided, but would be “some window of opportunity to find other homes for them or make some other decisions.”

Gosnell said he was prompted to make the recommendations as the number of complaints about unleashed dogs and feral cats has increased.

Councilman William Goldfinch wondered if the part that would make it illegal to leave animals unattended for more than 24 hours could be amended to extend the time for cats. He’s a dog person, he said, but his sister is a big cat lover and can leave enough food and water for them while she’s out of town for more than a day.

Councilman Irby Koon asked if police planned to check to see what residents do with their excess pets.

“I don’t want them to just be taken out in the country and dropped,” he said.

Mayor Alys Lawson said she wasn’t comfortable with putting a limit on four pets. Wouldn’t a limit of five work just as well, she asked.

Gosnell said Friday that he’s open to any suggestions from council members and could even agree to letting owners keep all the pets they have now, but not being able to replace animals that died if it meant they would have more than four.

He said he got the limit of four by studying limitations that other S.C. cities have on the legal number of pets. The number, he said, ranged from four to seven.

Gosnell said that any changes to make animal regulations clearer would be a step in the right direction.

The city’s animal ordinance now says only that owners must provide their pets with adequate food and water, and that’s just not enough.

Books open please

Councilwoman Barbara Blain-Olds is moving forward with her idea to brand Conway as a city of readers, but she now believes that next spring is more realistic as a date to start an annual event than was this fall, as she had originally thought.

She said there are endless possibilities of what could be done at a RiverRead at Riverfront Park, as she is calling the event. She said she wants to form a committee to come with ideas and plan the specifics for next spring’s event, but she thinks a mass readalong would “be very cool.”

Blain-Olds said numerous people have voiced support for the idea since she first mentioned it at a City Council meeting.

“There’s a lot of interest there,” she said. “People are willing to give their time and energy.”

She expects any costs to the city would be minimal – public safety personnel, portable toilets – and thinks the costs could be offset through grants.

Councilman Irby Koon said Horry County Schools used to have a program where children would go to the beach to read, and he supports Blain-Olds’ effort.

“Anything you can do to get children to read would be a positive thing,” he said.

Blain-Olds said Conway could capitalize on an image for reading and perhaps would become a beacon for others to follow.

“We could be the standard,” she said. “We could be the beginning of something.”

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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