Pickup truck and dog owners beware: Letting your pooch ride unrestrained in the open air may soon be illegal in Pinellas County.
The provision is one of several found in a proposed overhaul of the county's animal services ordinance. Today, the County Commission is expected to schedule a public hearing for Oct. 7.
If approved, the rules would hold countywide, although individual cities are free to adopt stricter measures.
County animal services director Welch Agnew said many of the proposed changes amount to housekeeping, while others address for the first time various threats to animal welfare.
Prohibitions against hoarding animals have been included, for instance. And there's a provision to allow courts to order convicted hoarders to undergo mental health evaluations and treatment.
"We need to get them some help," Agnew said of hoarders, those found living in squalid conditions with poorly cared-for animals. "We're not in a position to order help, but a court might be."
Also, the portion of the ordinance that governs pet dealers and kennel operators is getting some teeth. Animal services would be able to cite dealers and operators for failing to meet federal care and sanitation standards, Agnew said, in addition to the bar on cruelty now in place.
Violators of the proposed ordinance would be guilty of a civil infraction, as now, which is punishable by a fine. However, there are new consequences for repeat violators: They could get hauled into court to face a judge.
Then there's the ban on drivers transporting or keeping "an animal in or on any motor vehicle unless the animal is safely enclosed within the vehicle or protected by a container, cage, cross tethering or other device that will prevent the animal from falling, being thrown or jumping from the motor vehicle."
In practice, Agnew said, the new rule would be most felt by pickup owners who carry their dogs untethered in their truck beds. Agnew said there may be some backlash over the measure, but that it's needed both for public and animal safety.
"There are going to be those who say my dog would never jump out of the truck," Agnew said. "But they could still get thrown out of the truck."
Will Van Sant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4166.