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Berkeley County Commission clamps down on leash law

April 12, 2001

Berkeley County Commission clamps down on leash law



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commission Thursday appeared ready to pass a law requiring dogs to be on leashes when off their owners' property.

The proposed ordinance would clarify and strengthen the existing law, said Commission President Howard Strauss.

County officials have received numerous complaints about dogs running loose and want to do something about the problem, Strauss said. The proposed changes to the animal control ordinance would apply only to dogs.

"As we're getting more people in Berkeley County, that puts pressure on the county to strengthen its ordinances," Strauss said.

The proposed ordinance will not be passed until a public meeting is held to discuss proposed changes, Strauss said.

Current law requires a dog to be under its owner's control, but seems to conflict with what "under control" means, said Berkeley County Animal Control Officer Ray Strine.

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It may mean the dog has to be on a leash off its owner's property, he said. But it's tough to enforce the law when one neighbor says it's all right for another person's dog to be on his property, even when a third neighbor is complaining about the same thing.

"Either you have a leash law or you don't have a leash law," Strine told the commissioners.

Under this ordinance, the commission would clarify that an animal must be on a leash when off its owner's property. But Strauss and Commissioner Robert Burkhart said they will not support any change to the ordinance that would allow an animal control officer on a person's property if there were no complaint about the dog.

"I don't want you coming out on my property because I have a dog there that isn't causing problems for anyone," Burkhart said.

"We won't be out there willy-nilly picking up dogs," Strauss said. "The county has no desire on going out and picking up a loose dog when there's no complaint about it."

Strine said the new ordinance would lead to officers collecting more dogs. The shelter on Queen Street is full, although plans have been approved to enlarge it.

He said he expects the issue to bring a large number of people out to the public meeting.

"I don't think they know what they've gotten into" with a public meeting on the issue, Strine said.

Strauss said he understands people are emotional about their animals. But it is far better to let people speak their minds on the issue than take action without giving them a chance to comment, he said.

"We understand there's going to be opposition," Strauss said. "But I'm more in favor of having the meeting than just passing the ordinance. If we don't do it, people will say, 'You didn't give us a chance to have a say.'"

No date has been set for the hearing.

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