SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Changes could be on the way for pet owners in Chatham County.

County commission is considering repealing and replacing the current animal services ordinance, last updated in 2019.

Dr. Jake Harper, director of Chatham County Animal Services, said the proposed changes aim to improve the well-being of cats and dogs, while better defining the department’s role in enforcement.

“There was somewhat of a disconnect between what we can do by law and what people wanted us to do,” Harper said. “So that’s where some of the detail in the ordinance helps with that.”

There are several proposed changes on the table, including:

  • Dogs kept outside must have 100 square feet of enclosed space
  • Restrictions on invisible fences would be lifted
  • Dogs cannot be kept in cars if the outside temperature is 79°F or higher
  • Stray hold for cats would increase from 3 days to 5 days to match dogs
  • The “three-strike law” for dogs found at large would be decreased to two, meaning after a dog is found for the second time it must be spayed or neutered

Back in May, animal services asked for the public’s feedback on what should and should not be included in the ordinance. Harper said keeping dogs in hot cars was a top concern, something he said they get daily calls about in spring and summer.

“There are times when it starts getting warmer that we could have five, six a day,” he said. “It’s amazing that people just don’t realize that they shouldn’t be keeping their dogs in the car. It’s a tragedy waiting to happen.”

Animal services officers can issue citations to anyone found violating the policies. You can face a fine anywhere between $100 to $1,000, depending on the violation and number of counts, according to the proposal.

Harper hopes the updated rules will make it easier to enforce across the entire county.

“We have very rural areas and we have a city,” he said. “Trying to match those two things with what’s acceptable in the rural areas and what’s acceptable in the city is a little difficult. The biggest part of that is having an all-encompassing, basic ordinance for the whole county that everybody can follow and understand.”

The first reading of the proposed ordinance was presented to commissioners on Friday morning. The second reading is scheduled to happen at the October meeting, where the public can give feedback before it’s voted on.

After the vote, the updated ordinance would go into effect on the first day of the next month. To read more about the proposed changes, click or tap here.