Berkeley County Sheriff seeks tougher animal control laws

May 10, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith asked the County Commission Thursday to include vicious dogs in the nuisance law it is in the process of developing.

Smith's request stems from events that have occurred recently, when the animal control office was bombarded with dog attack and bite calls.

About 74 animal-related calls have been reported to 911 dispatchers since April 1. About 90 percent of the calls were related to dog attacks and bites.


A Wednesday incident off Speck's Run Road involved a stray Rottweiler that entered a barn and attacked a miniature white pony in the hind leg area and on the neck.

When animal control officers attempted to get the pony out of the stall, the dog went after the officers, who then shot and killed the dog, animal control officer Jason Ahalt said.

Six other dog attacks occurred last week in the county, including one in which a man was hospitalized, and another in which two dogs killed a horse, Ahalt said.

Smith said the current laws dealing with vicious dogs are antiquated, and they don't give law enforcement the ability to handle the dogs and prosecute the owners of vicious dogs.

Commission President Howard Strauss agreed, saying the top priority nuisances are vicious dogs and animal noise, especially noise from barking dogs and racetracks.

Strauss said the county's legal counsel will provide the commission with legislation from nuisance laws found in other states so that the commission can move forward on the development of the law.

Adding vicious dogs to the list of nuisances isn't the only change animal control officers think should be implemented in the county.

Officers feel the fines given to pet owners who are not current on their pets' vaccinations, who haven't paid their dog tax and who let their animals run loose outside their property lines needs to be increased.

Currently, the fine is $10 plus court costs, which totals $147.10, Ahalt said.

Also, officers say the county's leash ordinance needs to be modified. As it stands now, dog owners can allow their pets to run loose on their land but must have their dogs on leashes if taken off their properties.

Officers want to see the ordinance changed so that dogs must be on leashes or restrained whenever they are outside.

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