Bay County commissioners have adopted a new animal control ordinance that they say will be one of the toughest in the state.
Commissioners also approved a revised interlocal agreement to require cities that contract for the service to agree that "one size fits all." The county currently enforces separate and sometimes conflicting ordinances for the five municipalities it now serves.
"It's going to be one set of rules across the county and that's going to make things a lot better for animal control [and] a lot better for each municipality to understand what all the rules are," Commissioner Bill Dozier said.
The board also agreed to stricter regulations on dogs classified as "dangerous." When an animal receives the designation, a fence is required around the house if the dog lives inside and a roofed kennel surrounded by a fence is mandatory if the dog lives outside.
"If there's a dog that's been deemed dangerous, then we have the ability to treat that in a more serious manner now than we did before," Dozier said.
"It's a pretty bold move," Commissioner Guy Tunnell said. "It certainly attempts to put a lot more responsibility on the animal owner, which is where I think it should be."
Tunnell said Bay County's new ordinance was modeled after the one in place in Jacksonville, which is considered one of Florida's most restrictive.
In other business, commissioners took another step toward getting into the ambulance business. Facilities are now in place for the EMS transition from Bay Medical-Sacred Heart, the current provider.
The county will sublease the existing Callaway substation on Tyndall Parkway from LHP Hospital Group for at least two years. The monthly lease payment will be $900 with a Consumer Price Index adjustment in the second year.
However, the headquarters building at 518 North Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard will be leased on a month to month basis while the county looks for an alternative site.
The county recently purchased existing equipment from LHP for $300,000. "We're keeping as much as we can the same… but we will eventually move off of Bay Medical's campus," Mark Bowen, Chief of Emergency Services, said.
Bowen said the county is on target for a "seamless" transition of EMS on October 1.