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Dog complaint hounds humane society director

August 23, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

A routine barking dog complaint heard Thursday night at a Washington County Animal Control Authority hearing led to allegations that the dogs' owner was getting special treatment because she is the executive director of the local humane society.

Two neighbors testified that they made approximately 18 calls in the past year to either the Humane Society of Washington County or to the Washington County Sheriff's Department complaining about Maria Procopio's dogs barking in her yard at 17623 Stone Valley Drive.

Both James Ardinger, of 17611 Stone Valley Drive, and Jane Urciolo, of 17619 Stone Valley Drive, said no one ever came out to investigate the allegations.

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"I understand that calls were made to the animal control agency ... how can (the officers) not survey the circumstances and fix the problem?," asked Gerald Ditto, a member of the Animal Control Authority.

"They did fix the problem ... they told me," Procopio said. "I would have told them to go tell the owners in any other barking dog case."

"There's the problem ... they didn't go out to your house," Ditto said.

"Are you implying that I am getting special treatment?" Procopio replied.

Again Ditto asked Procopio what would happen if he called about barking dogs.

"(The officers) would go out and say there was a complaint. They did ... they came to me," Procopio said, acknowledging that she was at her office when they told her of the complaints.

"That's my point," Ditto said.

Procopio said she instructs her officers to try to solve a problem without going out. When that is done, money can be saved, she said.

Ardinger testified he first filed a barking dog complaint against Procopio a year ago. "And it continues to this day ... Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday," he said.

Urciolo, a former employee at the animal shelter on Maugansville Road, offered a videotape to the authority members as evidence that the dogs bark constantly.

Procopio testified she has a Labrador retriever, a basset hound/beagle mix and a beagle. She said she and her husband work long hours and the dogs are home alone with access to the yard through a doggy door.

Procopio said she got bark collars for her dogs but stopped using them after a while. She said she has done everything she can to curb the barking but told the Animal Control Authority members that it is natural for dogs to bark.

"This isn't about barking dogs," Procopio said. "This is about jeopardizing my position in the community."

When all the testimony was in, Authority Chairman Tom DiGirolamo said a written opinion will be issued within 15 days. Appeal of that decision can be made to Washington County Circuit Court.

The other three members of the voluntary board in attendance for Thursday night's hearing at the Washington County Administration building were Daniel A. Murphy, Kelli J. Boyer and Rollan T. Myers Jr.

The Washington County Animal Control Authority has the authority to hear complaints and issue fines or warnings.

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