New animal law is for the birds

By Jeff Linville -

Jeff Linville News Editor

On Sept. 30, 1963, “The Andy Griffith Show” debuted an episode called “Opie the Birdman.”

The premise of the show was that Opie receives a new slingshot and kills a mother bird. Out of guilt he takes in her babies to raise.

In the 1946 film “The Yearling,” a boy takes in an orphaned fawn to raise.

In the premiere episode of “The Sopranos,” tough guy Tony Soprano takes a liking to a family of ducks nesting in his backyard pool. At one point he even wades into the water and tosses them some pieces of bread.

Elly May Clampett had a whole menagerie of animals around the cement pond.

I met in a guy in Flat Rock 23 years ago who had rescued a baby raccoon. He closed it up inside a pet carrier at night when he slept until one morning when he awoke to find the raccoon in bed with him.

He wondered how the raccoon opened the carrier door. It didn’t. It reached out of the carrier and unscrewed the nuts and bolts holding the carrier together. The carrier was in pieces in the floor.

Eight years ago, a friend had some kittens born at her house. She was looking for homes. I adopted one. A few years later, a stray cat adopted me. He’s a very affectionate cat who loves to be petted. When I am outside he follows me around like he’s on a leash.

The only downside is he is quite vocal when hungry. I call him Screech. Well, the full name is the Screecher from the Black Lagoon, but Screech for short. I even took him to the vet to get fixed and get his shots, but he’s still an outdoors cat who enjoys being outdoors. I put a little food out for him three times a day.

If I’m understanding the new ordinance in Pilot Mountain, all of these examples are now illegal.

A person living in the town limits cannot take in a wild animal, which would seem to include nursing an injured one back to health or taking in an orphan. And people aren’t allowed to feed these animals, not even a hungry stray dog.

I can understand much of the logic behind this town ordinance, but I can’t imagine it going over very well with the more tender-hearted among us. If someone sees a hungry animal, that person’s heart will go out for the critter.

See a wounded squirrel and just walk away? That’s not an option for some folks’ conscience.

I’ll let someone else tell Tony Soprano he can’t feed ducks on his own property. Nice knowing you.

As for the legality of the ordinance, I’m no lawyer, but it doesn’t seem like it’s 100 percent covered by N.C. General Statutes.

N.C. General Statute 160A-186 allows the town to prohibit animals including dogs and cats from running loose. It may seize the animals for sale or have them destroyed “after reasonable efforts to notify their owner.”

The next N.C. statute on the books, 160A-187, gives the town the ability to prohibit the harboring of wild or dangerous animals within the town limits.

That makes sense. When my cousin was living in Florida, there were frequent reports on the news about dangerous creatures getting loose. People would smuggle the animals into the country, and either the creatures would escape on their own, or in some cases the smugglers feared getting caught by customs agents and let the animals go.

Nothing quite like hearing that a black mamba, possibly the most deadly land snake in the world, is roaming free in Lakeland, Florida.

Still, nothing in either of those state statutes specifically mentions feeding. A town can have a dog catcher, and people can’t house wild or dangerous animals. Feeding wild animals? I don’t see anything about that.

Then there is the issue of the fines. If you are caught, you don’t get a one-time fine. The fine is charged for every day a person is violating the ordinance. That could add up really fast. It is $100 for the first day, the $250 for the second day, then $1,000 for subsequent days.

If a person is busted feeding strays each day for a week, that’s $5,350 in fines.

And of course there is the issue of catching the culprits. There aren’t enough cops to canvass the town looking for food handouts.

Like the Gestapo of Nazi Germany, the Pilot police department will have to rely on neighbors ratting each other out on a tip line.

That will do wonders for neighborhood morale. If John Smith gets busted for befriending possums, how long will it take to figure out it was Bob Jones next door who snitched?

It’s not that I’m opposed to all parts of this ordinance. I think some version of this is certainly necessary. Still, I think it is very strict and leaves no wiggle room.

The change may fly under the radar now, but wait until a few folks show up at Town Hall to protest their $100 fines.

Jeff Linville News Editor Linville News Editor

By Jeff Linville

Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

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