Waynesboro leaders, in the face of common sense, moving forward on pet ordinance

jail police
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It’s unclear what the next step will be for Waynesboro City Council with respect to a proposed code change that could lead to jail time for some pet owners, and among other things, also require cats to be licensed, but there will be a next step.

This despite the fact that, now that you’ve read this far, you know more about the proposed ordinance than the mayor or city manager.

Ain’t that grand?

What transpired on Monday night in the Charles T. Yancey Municipal Building was an embarrassing display of ineptitude on the part of local government.

At one point, the city manager, Mike Hamp, who ostensibly signed off on the proposed ordinance ahead of the meeting, and led the discussion Monday night, answered a question from one City Council member about a proposed licensure requirement for cats, which would certainly be unique, by seeming perplexed that the ordinance language might actually have spelled out that cats need to be licensed.

It, in fact, does.

What happened here?

I mean, did whoever wrote this copy the first link from a Google search of “animal ordinance” and do a find and replace to put Waynesboro’s name in the important places?

Asking for a friend there.

The mayor, Bobby Henderson, later attempted to correct the record on an item that I had brought up in the public comment section of the meeting, about how residents who would be found in violation of proposed limitations on the number of dogs, cats, chickens or roosters could be subject to jail time.

Henderson, breaking decorum for the meeting procedure, which calls for the public comment section of the meeting to not involve a back-and-forth between the public and members of City Council and staff, insisted, in a correct the record tone, that the proposed code section only calls for a Class 3 or Class 4 misdemeanor, neither of which would subject one to jail time.

Thing is, the proposed code section sets forth that third and subsequent violations shall constitute a Class 2 misdemeanor, which per the Code of Virginia exposes those found guilty to a possible six-month jail term.

Which, you know, what I said.

Jail.

This guy, remember, is a retired police officer. Wouldn’t you expect a retired police officer who is the mayor to read the code section and know what it says?

It’s easier to insist that he knew what it said, though he didn’t, and to incorrectly correct a critic who had read it and knew what it said.

Ladies and gentlemen, your government at work.

City Council members tried to save face during and after the meeting by letting on that the review of the proposed ordinance was just getting started, asking for patience, and curiously distancing themselves from the whole mess by trying to make clear that they had only themselves been made aware of the fact that the ordinance was going to be on the agenda for Monday’s meeting late last week, throwing Hamp under the bus – a familiar place for Hamp, a super nice guy unfortunately perpetually over his head in the big chair.

Astoundingly, then, the City Council agreed to nonetheless put the issue on the agenda for a final vote in four weeks (!), an obvious rush to judgement considering the many holes that the members themselves seemed to find with the proposal, and the inconvenient truth that it didn’t seem that anybody has to this point done more than a cursory read of the document, if that.

The consensus of the City Council was that the document that the members and a cross-section of the city that showed up to read the people on the dais several versions of the riot act for threatening jail time for law-abiding residents who have what could in a few weeks be deemed to be “too many pets” would nonetheless serve as a starting point for the upcoming discussions, which should be disconcerting, considering.

The person who we have to assume wrote it doesn’t seem to know what’s in it, the City Council, what it knows, it doesn’t seem to like, and yet in a month, it’s going to be the law of the land here.

If it wasn’t for the long line of pet owners reduced to tears as they addressed city leaders at the meeting who now have to think for the next month that they either need to put their homes on the market or prepare Muffy, Fido and Foghorn Leghorn for a short life in the animal shelter on the way to being euthanized, we could maybe find the humor in this epic comedy of errors.

Story by Chris Graham


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