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Amend vicious dog law before next brutal attack

April 20, 2004

In the wake of a fatal attack on a woman's pet goat, Berkeley County, W.Va., officials say they're considering altering the county's vicious dog ordinance.

Do it, we say, so that it's clear that those whose vicious dogs kill livestock pay the same penalty as those whose animals kill other dogs.

The attack in question was especially troubling because the two Rottweilers didn't grab the 10-year-old Nubian goat in the open pasture, but actually dug into a penned enclosure.

After killing the goat, the two dogs ran toward the home of a neighbor who also keeps goats. The neighbor shot both dogs, although not fatally, before they could do any further damage.

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Brad Sheppard, chief of Berkeley County Animal Control, said he'd originally considered citing the dogs under the vicious dog ordinance.

He didn't, saying that he considered the goat livestock as opposed to a domestic animal.

Norwood Bentley, the county attorney and author of the ordinance, said that it should be clarified.

We agree. Though the owner of the dog paid a $100 fine and $400 as compensation for the goat, the dogs were returned to him.

We assume that the dogs escaped accidentally, but accidents happen every now and then. If and when they do, whose pet - or worse, whose child - will be at risk if and when that takes place?

Finally, whenever something like this happens, shouldn't the public know whose animals were involved?

If your next-door neighbor has dogs that were cited in an attack like this, wouldn't you want to know, especially if you had small children?

Declining to release the name is a kindness to the animal's owner, but not to his or her neighbors and the surrounding community.

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