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Residents heard again on vicious dogs

October 04, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Nearly 20 people attended the Berkeley County Commission's public hearing Thursday night on a proposed vicious dog ordinance, and several said they disagree with the notion that a dog is vicious if it attacks someone after being provoked.

"If pushed to the limit," any living creature "is going to try to protect itself," said Carolyn Bishop, a representative of Panhandle Action for Animals, an animal welfare group.

Bishop was referring to a section of the ordinance that indicates a dog will be deemed vicious if "even with provocation, (it) has inflicted a bite on a person which bite resulted in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations or required surgery or hospitalization."

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As an example, Bishop cited a case in which a family's pet, a St. Bernard, seemed to bite a toddler for no reason. After the family had the dog euthanized, a veterinarian found the toddler had forced a pencil through the dog's ear into its brain, she said.

The commissioners listed to comments from several people for about an hour, and said some could be incorporated into the ordinance. Commission President Howard Strauss said he hopes to make the ordinance effective Jan. 1, 2003.

Lennie Pendergraph came to the meeting with his own vicious dog ordinance in hand. He agreed that the "even with provocation" clause should be removed.

"You can provoke anything and anybody and I think anything or anybody has a certain right to self-defense," he said.

Pendergraph said he favors "a little more penalty" for vicious dog owners. Under the current ordinance, a first-time offender would be fined a maximum $100. For subsequent offenses, the owner would be fined $300 to $1,000. Dogs declared vicious would be euthanized.

Mary Burkhart told the commissioners that people found to have vicious dogs should not be allowed to have another dog for a certain time period.

"Here, here" someone in the audience said.

Strauss, however, said the county does not have the legal authority to include that in the ordinance.

Before wrapping up the public hearing, Commissioner John Wright said "convicted drug lords" should not be allowed to own dogs. He said some drug dealers have dogs that are usually chained up outside with little more than a box for shelter.

The commissioners put together the vicious dog ordinance using a bill that gave counties the authority to control what they deem nuisances. The next step will be to form ordinances to regulate ATV usage, noise and dilapidated houses, Strauss said.

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