County commissioners approve irresponsible pet owner ordinance

ALACHUA Co., Fla., (WCJB) ---- Alachua County commissioners are on board when it came time to make sure owners are responsible for their pets' behavior.

Over the past few months, there has been a string of serious dog attacks in the county and commissioners voted unanimously to hold pet owners responsible.

According to officials, there are hundreds of dog bites reported every year in the county, about one a day or more on average, some more severe than others.

"Last night they passed the irresponsible owner ordinance because they felt like it was time to go right to the source of where the problem is and the problem is there are people who are not responsibly handling their pets," stated Mark Sexton, Alachua Co. spokesperson.

Chris Lomelin is a pet owner in Gainesville and says that he's happy with the county's decision to hold owners responsible.

"I mean a dog can't control there most of the times and if the dogs get loose and attack someone I mean, it's ultimately the pet owners responsibility," stated Lomelin.

Requirements to be upheld for 3 years under this ordinance for irresponsible owners is that owners have to register as irresponsible and have all pets sterilized and neutered within 30 days.

And owners would not be allowed to own more pets. But the question is how enforceable is the ordinance?

" The provision in the ordinance is that says they're not allowed to own other pets obviously that will be challenging for us but if for some reason law enforcement or animal control is called back out the house because of some incident and at that time if we discover that they violated that provision, that is one way that we'll discover it," stated Sexton.

Lomelin says the ordinance puts him and his two small dogs a bit on ease.

"I mean I have to walk the dogs I live in an apartment, we don't have like a backyard or anything and so I have to walk them but I mean what am I supposed to do if I see a big dog walking around," stated Lomelin.

Officials say that if many of the serious dog attacks that have occurred over the past few months could have been prevented if pet owners were responsible.

"When you purchase a pet or you get a pet for free, you rescue a pet it comes with an obligation and those obligations are really simple. You can't let the pet off the property without a leash. If your pet is in a backyard, the fence has to be secure, I mean those are so fundamental," stated Sexton.

The county has also approved a little less than $200,000 to add animal control officers, help purchase more vehicles and even extend animal services hours of operations.