Red Bay amends dog ordinance

The Red Bay City Council passed an amendment to its dog ordinance during its March 22 meeting.

The meeting, which would have been held March 15, was moved forward a week – a decision made at the March 1 meeting because of an anticipated lack of quorum.

Red Bay Mayor Charlene Fancher asked the council members whether they were ready to approve and give unanimous consent to the ordinance or would rather discuss the issue any further. The council unanimously voted to approve the amended ordinance.

Fancher noted the amendment was read in its entirety at the March 1 meeting.

“It started last summer when we had the horrific situation with the pit bulls,” Fancher explained at the March 1 meeting, referring to the April 28, 2022, incident involving local resident Michelle Sheeks being attacked by a pack of dogs while on a walk near her home, located close to Red Bay.

Her husband, Wesley Sheeks, has spoken at local city council and commission meetings to relate the story, which he described as “an unprovoked attack by a pack of between five and eight dogs.” He said it resulted in a two-and-a-half-month struggle to stabilize his wife, who ultimately died of her injuries.

Alabama Department of Public Health employee Jacqueline Summer Beard was attacked by a pack of dangerous dogs April 30, 2022. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said Beard was following up on the dog attack report from earlier in the week when she was apparently attacked by the same pack of dogs. The FCSO said Beard died later that day.

In addition to Sheeks, others have spoken out in Franklin County since then to share their concerns about violent dogs, particularly packs of dogs, as well as the general problem of an excessive number of strays, along with problems of abuse and neglect.

During the March 1 meeting, Fancher said the city was out of space to house stray dogs and referred to the matter as an “ongoing situation with animal control,” citing dogs as the primary problem, noting 10 dogs being housed in the city kennel at that time.

At that meeting, she introduced the amendment to the city’s dog ordinance. The council approved introduction of the amendment for consideration, agreeing to vote on it at the March 22 meeting.

The amendment reads as follows:

“Section 7: Releasing impounded animals – No person shall, without authority, release any animal impounded in accordance with the provision in this section. (A) Unclaimed Animals – If the owner of any animal impounded is unknown, or if the owner is known and fails to claim such animal with 10 (ten) days of the date of impoundment, the animal will be transported to the Franklin County Animal Control Impoundment Center and the animal will no longer be the property or responsibility of the City of Red Bay.”

Sections B and C of the ordinance have been deleted because they deal with the sale of dogs. Fancher explained at the March 1 meeting that the city doesn’t put dogs up for sale.

Fancher said the ordinance is just in place in case the city gets into a situation like having 10 dogs in the pound for a prolonged amount of time, noting she saw three dogs in a pack in her neighborhood the previous day.

“It is a problem,” she reiterated. “People are not taking care of their animals or keeping them on a leash or inside a fence. That is the problem, and some of these dogs can be dangerous.”

Fancher said the city can’t continue to keep dogs “for as many months as we have this year,” adding it doesn’t mean if there are four dogs – for example – in the pound, and it comes to the 10th day, that those dogs would be rushed to the Franklin County center.

“We’re not going to stop everything we’re doing and our daily routines with the street department. It could be 12 days; it could be fourteen,” she added, noting that gives rescuers more time to adopt the animals.

“We’re going to be easy to work with on this,” Fancher said, “but it does give us a way to transport animals in the event that we just get bombarded again.”

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