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Residents make noise over dog laws

At a public hearing Thursday, several Jefferson County residents said they were against any proposed dog laws.

At a public hearing Thursday, several Jefferson County residents said they were against any proposed dog laws.

May 14, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Jefferson County officials are going to "extremes" by considering a new law that would allow them to fine people up to $500 for allowing their dogs to bark, area residents said at a public hearing Thursday night.

Ed Robinson asked members of the Jefferson County Commission what else might be regulated.

"Are we going to have an ordinance against cows mooing?"

About 15 people attended the hearing at the Charles Town Public Library.

Some speakers at the hearing said that, often, a dog is not to blame for its barking. Many times, the problem can be traced to a dog's environment, speakers said.

Summit Point, W.Va., resident Richard Henry said dogs bark in his community because of the Summit Point Raceway and passing trains.

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"Maybe we should shut the whistle off the train," Henry said.

The commissioners have drafted two proposed laws to control barking and roaming dogs after receiving complaints about the two issues.

To control dogs from roaming and forming packs, the commissioners are considering a law that would allow county officials to seize a dog if it goes off its owner's property and is not on a leash.

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

One woman - who told the commissioners about an incident in which her small dog was mauled by a larger one - said the leash law is needed.

Most of the focus of the hearing was on the barking-dog law.

Speakers said they were concerned about the proposed law because it is natural for a dog to bark. Dogs bark to alert their owners to trouble, they bark to communicate and they bark to greet their owners when they come home, speakers said.

Under the proposed barking law, a dog could be considered a "public nuisance" if two or more people living in different houses complain about the animal.

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

Pat Willingham said she is worried about neighbors using the law to carry out a grudge.

Dennis Wark said he is bothered by barking dogs. Wark said he moved to the area because he loves the surroundings. But often, Wark said, "All I get is this barking, barking and barking."

Commission President Al Hooper said the comments would be taken into consideration.

"This is a work that is in progress," Hooper said.

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