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Commission studies dog law changes

November 30, 1999|by JENNIFER FITCH

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. ? Revisions pending to the dog ordinance in Berkeley County, W.Va., would fine people who don't pick up canine waste on property other than their own.

Fines range from $50 to $150 upon conviction, and dogs could be seized if they do it while wandering free.

The Berkeley County Commission will host a public comment session June 14 before the changes are finalized.

The dog ordinance enacted in July 2001 addressed confinement and hunting dogs, but it did not include provisions for picking up dog waste.

A new section also spells out how to appeal violations.

The commissioners on Thursday moved sentences around in the section focusing on waste pickup.

Draft forms had the paragraph beginning with, "Likewise, any dog which deposits waste on public or private property ... is subject to seizure."

Commissioner William L. Stubblefield argued that starting with that sentence placed the focus on taking the dog, whereas the preference would be to fine the owner.

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"It's not the dog we're after," Stubblefield said. "It's the owner we're after. Dogs are going to deposit waste regardless."

He asked that the sentence be moved lower in the paragraph.

"Right now, if you read the paragraph, the poor dog is going to be penalized for something all dogs do," Stubblefield said.

Norwood Bentley III, the commission's legal counsel, agreed the commission should keep the sentence, but move it lower in the paragraph.

The dog can be taken if it defecates while not on a leash and its owner is not immediately known, Bentley said.

"Otherwise, you just watch it happen," he said.

The ordinance would apply to areas outside municipalities.

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