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Officials hope to add teeth to animal control laws

April 09, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Washington County animal control officials plan to present a proposal to the Washington County Commissioners that would give the county's animal control board more bite.

The county's animal control laws have loopholes that make the laws hard to enforce, said Shelly Moore, executive director for the Washington County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Moore told Hagerstown's mayor and City Council on Tuesday that she plans to ask county officials to approve the creation of a stronger board.

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The proposed five-member board would hear complaints about vicious dogs, barking dogs and violations of the pooper-scooper law, Moore said. The board also would hear appeals from owners whose pets were removed because of vicious behavior.

Under the proposal, pet owners could appeal the board's decisions to the Washington County Circuit Court.

The county's current board, which hasn't been active since at least January, didn't have the power to deal with such complaints, she said.

The proposal would improve enforcement of animal control laws by allowing animal control officers to remove vicious animals in emergency situations, Moore said.

Two months ago, a 3-year-old child was bitten by a dog and had to have 14 stitches, Moore said. When the dog's owner didn't comply with a confinement order, Moore removed the dog.

But, the dog had to be returned after the state attorney's office told Moore she had stolen the dog, Moore said.

City code enforcement officials also are proposing changing city zoning law to require anyone with more than three adult dogs to obtain a kennel license, said Building Inspector Mike Heyser.

The state already has such a law, said Debbie Everhart, the city's zoning administrator.

Kennels are not permitted in residential zoning areas in the city, Everhart said.

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