W.Va. board enacts leash law

May 11, 2001

W.Va. board enacts leash law

By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

The Berkeley County Commission voted unanimously Thursday to toughen the county's leash law for dogs.

Faced with complaints about dogs creating nuisances while off their owners' properties, the commissioners held a public hearing May 3, then voted 3-0 Thursday for the new ordinance, which takes effect July 1.

The law says a dog must be under control of its owner. The ordinance stipulates a dog is under control if it is on its owner's property or on a leash when it is off the owner's property. Currently, a dog does not have to be on a leash when off its owner's property

Commission President Howard Strauss said the phone calls and letters he received since the public hearing were unanimous in support of the measure.


"My preference is that people in Berkeley County receive some protection from dogs running loose than can molest children," he said.

Commissioner John Wright said one person told him that animals being under the "voice control" of their owners would be enough.

Wright said if dogs are determined to take a course of action, they won't listen to their owners.

Strauss had wanted the law to take effect Nov. 1, so the county could build the pens necessary to house the increased number of animals he believes will be picked up by county animal control officers.

"I don't think you're going to pick up more dogs," said Commissioner Robert Burkhart. "I just think you'll issue more citations and tickets."

Strauss agreed to the earlier date, but the commissioners said the issue will remain a hot one even with the new law.

"The problem won't go away because of the leash law," Wright said. He said the law could have unintended consequences, such as increased noise from dogs that have been penned up because they can't run loose.

Melvin Edwards of Hedgesville, W.Va., complained to the commissioners Thursday about the noise from coon hounds he believes are being kept penned up by a neighbor. He played a tape in which the hounds, which he said were about 150 yards from his house, could be heard over a television set.

"I'm getting abused by these dogs," he said.

The commissioners agreed, but said they could act only if the West Virginia Legislature gave them the authority to regulate barking dogs. Burkhart said bills have been introduced in the Legislature to do that. None have passed.

The commissioners voted to write the legislative committee that controls that authority, asking for action. Burkhart said a bill should give the County Commission the right to pass a local law. That way, those counties that don't want such an ordinance wouldn't have to enact it, he said.

"There's a lot of places in West Virginia where they think more of their own hounds than they do of their kids," Burkhart said.

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