Sullivan Co.’s Animal Care Ordinance Overturned | WJHL


BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — A resolution to address animal cruelty in Sullivan County was tabled at Thursday night’s committee meeting, leaving sponsors and supporters of the bill confused about the reasons.

The resolution, sponsored by Commissioner Mark Vance, was first filed in January 2022 and sought to update definitions and penalties for certain offenses in the county. However, when presented to the Commission on February 17, the resolution received a cold reception. Thursday’s full agenda is available below:

“I know there are concerns, elements, maybe amendments that they want to work with,” Vance said. “I will continue to work on this resolution, it is a very valuable resolution, it is very much needed in Sullivan County.”

After the presentation of the resolution, the committee proposed to table the question without discussion. The motion received a “yes” vote from 14 commissioners, removing the resolution of business without public comment, debate or a vote by elected officials. A public tally has not yet been released, so individual commissioner votes are not available.

Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable told News Channel 11 that the decision to file the motion came from Commissioner Mark Hutton. News Channel 11 staff have contacted Hutton’s office, but have not yet received a comment. Venable also said that once a resolution has been tabled without a vote to resume discussion, the resolution must be tabled again.

The resolution received support from fellow commissioner and co-sponsor John Gardner, as well as local animal activists.

Some of the provisions of an updated Sullivan County Animal Welfare Ordinance, as introduced Thursday, would have made several actions illegal and subject violators to possible fines and county repercussions. :

  • Leaving animals outside without adequate shelter.
  • Leave animals outside in extremely hot, cold or severe weather.
  • Chain or restrain dogs and then leave them unsupervised.
  • Keeping a “vermin animal” that makes excessive noise or disturbs the tranquility of local residents.

“My plan is to keep working to bring that to the ground and try to get off the table and get approval,” Vance said. “We need to treat our animals better than some people are in Sullivan County.”

The dismissal drew ire from some in the crowd, including Liza Conway, a supporter of the effort. Conway told News Channel 11 she was disappointed to see the motion to be tabled Thursday night.

“I was in the audience last night, so I was quite surprised,” Conway said. “The fact that the resolution was tabled without any public discussion was concerning. The fact that the resolution was presented to the commissioners two months ago gives them ample time to do their due diligence. The fact that a number of commissioners voted to file the ordinance shows who are animal-friendly commissioners and who are not.

According to Tennessee Codecounty administrators were granted the ability to regulate local pet ownership in 1995. County-by-county animal shelter and leash laws are made possible through this law, allowing county legislators to dictate the level care pet owners should take in every county in Tennessee. .

“That was 27 years ago,” Conway said. “So if nothing else, Sullivan County is 27 years behind what they were allowed to do, the powers given to them by the State of Tennessee. It’s time.”

However, those who support the resolution are not without hope. Vance said he intends to continue pushing the issue forward as part of his responsibility to voters in his district.

“I represent the people of County Commission District 2 in Bristol. I represent everyone,” Vance said. “And I think as a legislative body, we should accept any recommendation from any citizen who asks us to bring it before the legislative body. I do my job, I represent my people. My people have asked me to present this. Am I disappointed? Yes.”


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