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New animal control laws sought

December 18, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Washington County Commissioners said Tuesday they will ask the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to tighten state laws on animal control, rather than seek legislation that would put more power in the hands of local animal control officers.

Last week county staff proposed legislation that would have allowed the Humane Society's animal control officers to criminally charge violators of the animal control ordinance.

Animal control officers currently have the authority to bring civil charges against ordinance violators.

The proposed law would have allowed the county to amend its ordinance with the new provision and make some severe violations misdemeanors.

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Severe violations include such incidents as dog bites and animal torture. Repeat violators also would have faced criminal charges under the proposal.

County Attorney Richard Douglas said last week the changes were necessary to the county's ordinance because the state law is full of holes.

The County Commissioners said Tuesday they would like more details on those weaknesses in the state law and would ask the local delegation to support strengthening it.

"We need to address the weaknesses in the state law rather than here," Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the Humane Society primarily would follow the state law rather than the county's ordinance. He said he did not know whether the state law gives the Humane Society the authority to file criminal charges.

The commissioners will discuss the issue with the local delegation today from noon to 2:30 p.m. in room 225 at the County Administration Building at 100 W. Washington St.

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