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Animal-control proposal needs a bit more review

January 26, 2001

Animal-control proposal needs a bit more review



After someone's rewritten something 19 times, it almost seems cruel to say that it might need more work. But even though we'll stipulate that Washington County's proposed animal-control ordinance was written in good faith, there are several things in the proposal that still give us some concern, especially since the commissioners may vote on it tomorrow.

They include:

- In hearing complaints, the Animal Control Authority would be able to admit "hearsay evidence if credible and of sufficient probative force to be considered..." This would give us problems even if the authority's members were all law-school graduates, which they won't be.

- Anyone who doesn't like the authority's ruling in a case is entitled to file a petition for judicial review by the Circuit Court. The problem is that such reviews "shall be confined to the record of the hearing before the authority." Will judges really consent to review the outcome of a hearing in which hearsay testimony plays a role?

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- Under the ordinance, the defintion "vicious and dangerous" animal would include any one that has "bitten or attacked a human being or animal without provocation." Commissioner William Wivell questioned whether this would include a pet dog which killed a wild rabbit. No, he was told, because that situation involves a wild animal. Our question then, is what happens to the pet dog that, as dogs are prone to do, breaks from its leash chases someone else's pet cat?

Under the definition of "public nuisance animals," the definition includes, among other things, any animal that "intimidates or acts in an aggressive manner" toward an individual or vehicle using any public street. Would this include a dog in a fenced yard snarling at people who aproached the fence? If so, then this ordinance would seem to outlaw the use of animals for security pruposes.

Commissioners' President Greg Snook said last Tuesday, "I guess there is not going to be an ideal ordinance." We agree, but

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