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Environmental Court to address kennels in abandoned houses

County Attorney Tom Seeley asked for help from the Health Education and Welfare Committee to deal with individuals who are using abandoned houses as kennels and breeding sites.
“We need the power for injunctive release that would allow the Environmental Court to remove the animals,” Seeley told members during their Feb. 11 meeting.
The county commission passed a resolution regulating animal nuisance in February 2010 that states: It shall be unlawful to keep or harbor any dog which barks, howls or whines in an excessive, continuous or untimely fashion; creates a nuisance; or adversely affects the health or disturbs the repose of any neighbor, or disturbs the peace and quiet of a neighborhood. Owners of such animals will receive one warning from the sheriff’s deputies or animal control officers who respond to repeated complaints. A kennel is not excluded from this prohibition.
However, the resolution defines a kennel as an establishment licensed to operate a facility housing dogs, cats or other household pets, and where grooming, breeding, boarding, training or selling of animals is conducted as a business.
Any person(s) firm or corporation violating any portion of the resolution is subject to a civil fine in the General Sessions Court of up to $50 per day for the first offense and up to $100 per day for additional offenses.
In addition to the fine, the county may choose to seek civil redress in Chancery and Circuit courts, which are designated with the power to order the person to remove any nuisance from the property, order the animal removed to animal control for adoption, pay a civil penalty, or pay damages resulting from such violations, or any other remedy at law or equity.
Because violations regarding abandoned structures in Washington County fall under the Environmental Court, Seeley requested that court be included with Chancery and Circuit in the resolution as designated with the power to seek injunction relating to removal of the animals. The Environmental Court had not been established at the time the original animal nuisance resolution was approved by the county commission.
Unanimous approval was received for a recommendation to the full commission, which approved the amendment during its Feb. 23 meeting.