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Jefferson County officials discuss proposed dog laws

May 03, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A new dog control law being considered by the Jefferson County Commission would allow county officials to seize and destroy dogs whose owners allow them to roam freely.

Another proposal the commissioners are considering would call for a fine of $50 to $500 for anyone who allows their dog to bark to the point that it draws complaints from at least two people.

The proposed laws follow complaints county officials have received about barking and aggressive dogs in the county.

If passed, the proposed law controlling roaming dogs would replace an existing leash law in the county, Commissioner James G. Knode said.

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Under the existing leash law, neighborhoods can request a leash law for their community if they present a petition to the commission, Knode said.

The new proposed law would be countywide.

The proposed new dog roaming law seeks to control dogs from attacking, wounding or killing people, livestock, and other domestic and wild animals. The proposal also seeks to prevent dogs from "forming packs."

If any dog goes off its owner's property and is not on a leash, animal control officers can seize the animal, according to Knode and the proposal.

Such dogs also can be seized if a county license and rabies vaccination tag is not on the animal, the proposal said.

Dogs seized will be held at the county dog pound for five days or until the owner pays the pound fees and costs, the proposal said.

Dogs not picked up by the owner within five days shall become the property of the county and destroyed by the animal control officer if no responsible new owner can be found, the proposal said.

Dogs engaged in legal hunting, lawful training exercises, or lawful herding or other farm-related activities not in residential areas would not be subject to the law.

Under the proposed barking dog law, a barking, howling or yelping dog would be considered a "public nuisance" if two or more people living in different houses complain about the animal, according to the proposal.

If the dog owner does not control the barking, the person could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and could be fined $50 to $500, the proposal states.

Although the commissioners have fielded complaints about barking and aggressive dogs in the county, some have expressed concern about new dog laws going too far.

One county resident told commissioners at a meeting last year that he believed a barking dog law would amount to discrimination against dog owners.

Richard Henry said he lives near a farm in Summit Point, W.Va., where cattle are raised. Henry said he cannot see the fairness in passing a law controlling barking dogs "when there's a mooing cow on the other side of the fence."

The commissioners discussed the two proposed dog laws during their meeting last Thursday and decided to have a public hearing on the issue May 13 at 7 p.m.

Commissioner Jane Tabb said the commissioners may get some "strong reactions" from the proposals.

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