Commission considers vicious dog issue

September 06, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Concerns about vicious dogs spread to Jefferson County Thursday night when the Jefferson County Commission debated whether to consider passing a countywide leash law or try for a broader law dealing with dangerous dogs.

The discussion came after a couple appeared before the commissioners to tell them about a recent incident in which they said their family dog was attacked and killed by another dog.

The couple pleaded for help before someone is seriously injured by a vicious dog in the county.

Many Jefferson County communities have leash laws and Commissioners Jane Tabb and James G. Knode voiced support for a countywide leash law.


But there is concern that a leash law may not be strong enough to control vicious dogs in the county, the couple said. They fear owners of vicious dogs could easily get their dogs back by paying a fine for having them unleashed.

The state recently passed legislation allowing county's to formulate their own public nuisance laws and Commission President James K. Ruland said he is interested in using those powers to formulate a vicious dog law for the county.

"I think we need to look at it in a more comprehensive way," said Ruland.

The issue has been brewing in neighboring Berkeley County for months.

The Berkeley County Commissioners began crafting a vicious dog law after a series of dog attacks there.

In May, a 190-pound Rottweiler attacked a Martinsburg man, requiring him to have surgery for wounds to his ankle, leg and side.

Within a week of that attack, six other dog attacks occurred in the county, including an incident in which two dogs killed a horse, said animal control officers.

On July 24, a young boy and a woman were injured in two separate dog attacks within about six hours of each other in Martinsburg. The young boy was hospitalized after he was bitten 17 times over various parts of his body by a Rottweiler, animal control officials said.

Under the law being considered in Berkeley County, dogs could be destroyed if they are determined to be vicious.

Tabb said identifying vicious dogs can be difficult to do sometimes.

Commissioner Dean Hockensmith said he was only interested in having a leash law in communities that sign a petition to have one.

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