About that proposed Waynesboro pet limit ordinance: You could just ignore it

backyard chickens
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Waynesboro City Manager Mike Hamp isn’t “suggesting or encouraging animal owners to evade the law.”

Made that clear this past Monday as he presented to Waynesboro City Council the proposed ordinance that would put limits on the number of pets that city residents could own and house.

Of course there’s a but coming.

He then did seem to suggest that those who would run afoul of the ordinance that could just … ignore it?

This is what passes for wisdom in our city government.

“It is conceivable then that if you had an animal that was in violation of the law, but did not draw unnecessary attention to itself or the residence, that it could go on without encountering regulatory action by the local government,” said Hamp, who also tried to tamp down tensions from pet owners by emphasizing that the city doesn’t “intend or have a plan to go door to door seeking out violations of the ordinance.”

Which does seem to bring up the question: if the city isn’t interested in enforcing the law, why put it on the books in the first place?

The ordinance in question, which City Council members said this week will come up for a vote next month, would limit city residents to four dogs, five cats, 10 chickens, and ban the ownership of roosters in the city, with punishments including fines and possible jail time.

But don’t worry about the fines and possible jail time, the city manager is saying.

Easy for somebody with no skin in the game to say.

“I’m the one with the chickens,” said Laurie Grabinski, addressing City Council Monday night, telling city leaders that her chickens are “family, along with my cat, my dog, my horses and everything else.”

“Why pass a document that is for a few, a minority, why hire lawyers to read over documents from other cities? Why not listen to the majority of the people in this town? What I ask you is, with this new pandemic, not knowing what tomorrow will bring, why are you taking the few joys we have in our life, and mainly our freedom and our choices?” Grabinski said.

Another question would be: why put another law on the books that isn’t likely to be used, but is sitting there waiting for someone to use to bludgeon a neighbor because they don’t like their politics or something else unrelated?

“If one neighbor doesn’t like us because we have a rainbow flag in our yard or a political sign up, can they speak up against our dogs?” city resident Crystal Graham asked rhetorically of City Council in remarks at Monday’s public meeting.

That this effort wasn’t all that well thought out seems to be a point conceded even by the guy who presented it to City Council.

“It may be that after this presentation and weeks of consideration, we end up in a similar position. However, if that’s the case, we ought to do so by design rather than by accident,” Hamp told City Council members Monday night.

As of this writing, City Council is on course to make a final decision on the animal ordinance at its meeting on Sept. 27.

Story by Chris Graham

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