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Humane Society head to discuss pit bull proposal

November 04, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Humane Society of Washington County's executive director is scheduled to take his arguments against a proposed pit bull law directly to the Hagerstown City Council today.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith, who proposed a law that would ban unregistered pit bulls, said Monday he thought it was important for the council to hear what Humane Society Executive Director Paul Miller has to say about the best ways for governments to guard against problems with dangerous dogs.

The presentation will be part of the council's work session, to be held at 4 p.m. at City Hall. There will not be an opportunity for public comment at the work session.

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"While a pit bull ordinance may still be eventually needed for this city, I feel we would be wise to first explore the assistance and cooperation offered by Mr. Miller and then to evaluate where we are with respect to this problem after a specified time period," Smith said in a staff report.

County law permits the Humane Society to declare specific animals vicious and dangerous. That designation would require the animal to be kept in a cage or building away from people or other animals. Whenever the animal was out of that secure place, it would have to be muzzled, leashed and under the control of someone older than 16.

If the dog's owner requests it, the dog will be killed, under the county law.

Miller, who took over the Humane Society post in early September, has worked with governments and police on the issue elsewhere in the nation. Smith said he was impressed by Miller's background.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., Miller has said, he dealt with the problem of potentially dangerous dogs by requiring dog owners to take certain steps, sometimes including taking the dogs to obedience school and what essentially was anger management sessions for the animals.

In late July, Smith asked the city to delay action on the proposed Hagerstown ordinance until he could meet with the Humane Society and Miller.

Under the proposed ordinance supported by Smith and Councilwoman Penny May Nigh, Hagerstown residents who own pit bulls would have to register them with the Hagerstown Police Department within 60 days or risk losing them.

The ordinance would provide for only one 60-day period during which pit bulls could be registered. At the close of the registration period, pit bulls could not legally be moved into Hagerstown, and unregistered pit bulls already in the city would be illegal.

Miller and others opposed to the proposal have said it might be difficult for city police to determine a dog's breed.

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