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Animal activist looks to change ordinance

By Hunter Riggall

About 45 people filled the Troup County Commission chamber Thursday evening to listen to a debate on amending the county animal ordinance.

The effort to change the ordinance is being led by local animal rights advocate Evie Kettler. Kettler asked the commission to more closely define what constitutes food, water and shelter, as well as ban the use of padlocks or chains to confine dogs.

Kettler wants the county ordinance to mirror that of the City of LaGrange. For example, adequate shelter would mean structures that include “bedding that is quick drying” to maintain comfortable temperatures in winter, as well as shaded areas during the summer. The city ordinance also prohibits direct point chaining or tethering.

“Any dog can suffer from heat stroke or hypothermia given the right circumstances,” Kettler said. “Dogs need shade in the blistering heat, and they need bedding in the frigid cold.”

Kettler argues that beyond the issue of animal welfare, mistreated animals are unsightly and lower property values, comparing it to an ordinance that regulates grass height.

“Would you want to buy a house next door to a dog who is neglected and have to look at that every day?” Kettler said.

At one point, Kettler displayed a chain and padlock to demonstrate her point. She also showed a video of tethered dogs that were allegedly filmed in Troup County.

Two farmers spoke after Kettler, warning the commission from making the animal ordinance too strict, saying the lifestyle of their working dogs might be outlawed under her proposal.

“We are in the country, dogs are raised a little different there,” said Michael Kavanagh, who asked that any changes include input from farmers in rural Troup County. “It’s a fine line. I just caution on which way we go on it.”

Both Kavanagh and local sheep farmer Raymond Smith Jr. said they don’t condone animal mistreatment, but that working dogs live different lives than house pets. Smith’s farm has 150-350 sheep at any given time, along with several guard dogs and herding dogs. The guard dogs are introduced to the flock at an early age. They drink the same water as the sheep and live with the sheep in the barn. Smith referenced potential regulations on what constitutes adequate shelter as being problematic.

“I’ve seen them in the winter time where they have ice and snow on their back, and they’re as happy as can be because they’re with their flock,” Smith said.

Smith said he’s yet to lose a sheep to a predator. He added that while there is a shelter built for dogs in the pasture, the dogs tend not to use it, instead patrolling the property or staying close to the flock.

Commission Chairman Patrick Crews said the commission would consider both sides of the issue and further examine the matter before returning with a plan in 30 days. Nearly the entire audience left the meeting following the animal ordinance discussion.

Other business discussed, to be voted on later, included the following:

Approval of the receipt of $1.33 million in federal funds for LaGrange Callaway Airport, to repay Troup County for a loan that is being used to extend the runway

A request to establish a memorandum of understanding in order for the LaGrange Economic Development Authority to explore recreational enhancements to Pyne Road Park, to eventually add more boating options such as kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding

A request to match approximately $612,000 in state grants with approximately $68,000 in county funds, allocated to fund the county’s Felony Adult Drug Court, Family Treatment Court, DUI/Drug Court and the Coweta Circuit Mental Health Court