I want to talk about animals in Highlands this week. Several initiatives are underway to control animals residing in town.
At last Thursday’s Highlands Town Board meeting commissioners addressed the issue of dogs running out of control in town. At the March meeting I presented an addition to the current ordinance that would have extended to residential areas the leash law that is currently in effect for town property and business zones.
The public safety committee reviewed the proposal this past month. What the committee developed was an extension to the definition of town nuisances to include dogs running in town not under control of their owner, thereby causing disturbances and/or damage to private property. In a nutshell, the change to the ordinance means a person can’t allow their dog to run throughout town unattended. On the other hand, under voice control and in command of their owner, dogs do not have to be on leash in residential areas. I believe these changes that were approved by the board address potential problems and actually provide better safety for dogs.
Under this new system our code enforcement officer will take into custody dogs running loose. He will use a chip reader or collar and tag information to identify the dog. The dog’s owner will be contacted and returned to the owner. If no identification can be made the dog will be taken to Macon County Animal Control. This ordinance primarily complaint driven and voluntary compliance is the first option.
Now on to the wild animals, the bears. With warm weather they will be on the hunt for food, especially in garbage containers.
Earlier this year at a Community Coffee I, along with NC Wild Life and B.E.A.R. Task Force folks, rolled out the NC BearWise program. The program involves steps in educating the public and addressing how garbage is handled in order to discourage bears coming into the town.
Implementation of the BearWise program will be in several phases, but initial steps are underway. First, bear proof street cans will soon be installed in the business district. The proposed budget for next year includes funding to replace the current commercial toters with bear resistant toters. Where possible, shared dumpsters will be replaced with these bear resistant toters for individual businesses. Addressing the problem of bears hitting residential garbage containers will be a longer process due primarily to cost considerations. I see us moving toward a policy of requiring all residential garbage to be placed in bear resistant toters.
I also see the board passing an ordinance prohibiting the deliberate feeding of bears in town. We do have residents that feed bears to the detriment of others, including the bears.
Finally, we have the human animal problem. That is human beings that act like animals by throwing litter onto the highways. Actually, animals don’t know any better, but humans should.
Please join us at the rescheduled Highlands Plateau Cleanup this Saturday. Volunteers will meet at Founders Park at 8:30 a.m. for breakfast and assignments. Call the Highlands Chamber at 828-526-2112 if you have not already signed up to volunteer.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor