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Panel would hear vicious dog cases

August 23, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Five people from the community will decide whether a dog declared vicious should be euthanized, according to the latest version of Berkeley County's proposed vicious dog ordinance.

County commissioners will appoint people to serve three-year terms on the Nuisance Appeal Board. They will not be paid.

How the members will be selected has not been determined, said Norwood Bentley III, legal counsel for the county. Previous suggestions included making sure a veterinarian and someone familiar with animal husbandry be appointed, Bentley said.

Nobody from animal control, the office that first declares a dog vicious, will sit on the panel, he said.

At their meeting Thursday morning, Commissioners Howard Strauss and John E. Wright approved the latest version of the ordinance. Commissioner Robert Burkhart was absent.

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Commissioners have been toying with the ordinance since May, after state Senate Bill 3 gave counties the power to enact nuisance ordinances. The bill is worded broadly enough to allow for a variety of ordinances, and Strauss said he next intends to pursue a noise ordinance. He specifically mentioned that it would apply to barking dogs.

Under the timeline in the ordinance, after a dog has attacked an animal or person, it will be quarantined at the Animal Control facility. If an officer deems the dog vicious, its owner has three days to appeal the decision to the Nuisance Appeal Board. Board members then must hold a hearing within 10 working days.

Board members will look at evidence and hear both sides of the case before making a decision, Bentley said. They will then decide whether the dog should be put down, and make that recommendation to the commission.

Commissioners can accept or reject the recommendation. The commission's decision cannot be appealed, although Bentley said one could file a written writ of prohibition in Circuit Court to try to halt the final decision.

A previous version of the ordinance gave dog owners the chance to pursue the case in Circuit Court.

A public hearing will be held to give people a chance to speak on the latest draft, Strauss said. Since the last public hearing, the ordinance has undergone two major revisions, the latest being the appeal board.

Last week, commissioners added a misdemeanor penalty into the draft. Anyone cited for having a vicious dog must pay a $100 fine for the first offense, and a $300 to $1,000 fine for any subsequent offenses.

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