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County may alter dog law in wake of attack on goat

April 19, 2004|By CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Martinsburg, W.VA. - Daisy, a 10-year-old black and white Nubian goat with droopy ears like a basset hound's, loved to kick a ball. In the summer, she enjoyed watermelon and cantaloupe rinds and, when she was a bit more spry, she'd jump over a picnic table in her yard.

Until she was killed by two Rottweilers a little over a week ago, Daisy, a pet, was a faithful companion who trailed behind her owner, Sherry Hays.

Now, because of what could be considered a loophole in the county's vicious dog ordinance, the two dogs that killed Daisy have been released to their owner.

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He paid a $100 fine to get the dogs back and $400 to Hays for her goat, said Brad Sheppard, chief of Berkeley County Animal Control. Sheppard declined to give the dog owner's name. He was not cited.

Sheppard said he initially intended to declare the dogs vicious, but then realized the county's vicious dog ordinance only applies to dogs that attack or kill a person or "domestic" animal. He said he would consider a goat livestock, rather than a domestic animal.

"Why isn't this goat a domestic animal?" asked county attorney Norwood Bentley, who wrote the ordinance. "I don't see anything that would help decide this issue, other than what I found in the dictionary."

Bentley said his dictionary defines the word domestic as tame or domesticated.

"I suspect we probably ought to modify the ordinance a bit," he said.

Around 3 a.m. on Friday, April 9, the male and female Rottweilers dug a hole in the yard of Hays' Grapevine Road home to enter the goat's pen, Sherry Hays said.

They then attacked Daisy, who suffered deep bite wounds to her throat area, Hays said. Sheppard said he also believes the goat's neck was broken.

After killing Daisy, the dogs ran toward the home of one of Hays' neighbors, who also owns goats. That man shot toward the Rottweilers before they could harm his animals, Sheppard said.

The larger male Rottweiler had a graze-type of wound to its head and the female was shot in the jaw. Both dogs survived and are being treated by a veterinarian, Sheppard said.

State law allows a person to shoot dogs that "worry" their livestock, Bentley said.

With no allowance under the vicious dog ordinance, Sheppard said he had to return the dogs to their owner. He said he did so with a warning.

"They probably could be considered a danger to farm animals," he said. "He will not be getting his dogs back if they get out again."

Sheppard said he would support adding livestock to the vicious dog ordinance.

"That would probably be a good idea. I have no problem with that," he said, adding later, "Actually, I think it should be (added)."

JoAnn Overington, chairwoman of the vicious dog ordinance's nuisance appeal board, agreed that she would have no problem adding livestock to the county law.

Volunteers, who sit on the nuisance appeal board, hear cases involving dogs that an Animal Control officer has declared as vicious. They speak with all parties involved and make a recommendation.

They either declare that the dog should be euthanized, or offer the dog's owner a second chance if he or she takes certain safety precautions, such as a more secure pen or fence.

Overington said she fears the killing of Hays' goat could be a harbinger of a long, hot summer of dog bites.

"It all goes back to responsibility as far as I'm concerned," she said.

People do nothing until their dog is seized, but then are willing to "move heaven and earth" for the animal, she said.

"Why couldn't they have done something beforehand?" she asked.

For Hays, there is only one adequate resolution.

"I think those dogs should be put to death, sorry. What's to say it's not going to happen again?" Hays asked.

"Why isn't this goat (considered) as precious as anybody's dog?" she asked.

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