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Group reviewing changes to animal laws

December 13, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A group of Washington County residents is looking at possible changes to the county's animal control ordinance.

Much of the focus has been put on dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs, a Smithsburg councilwoman said.

Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County, said a group met to discuss possible revisions to the county's animal control ordinance and is in the "brainstorming phase." Miller said the group, which has met twice with him as its "mediator," includes representatives from county municipalities, health departments, zoning boards, and law enforcement agencies, and veterinarians and trainers.

Miller said he believed it was crucial that a wide range of county residents was represented at the meetings.

"These are community issues. They're not specific to Humane Society or county government," Miller said. "The community needs to be represented and be able to say 'yea' or 'nay' on what is being talked about."

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Miller said the discussion may lead to a recommendation or request to the county to update the ordinance.

Shirley Aurand, a member of the Smithsburg Town Council, said those at the meeting she attended recently focused on "dangerous dogs and potentially dangerous dogs."

Aurand said many of the changes would focus on animals against which a complaint has been filed. She said changes to the local ordinance could closely mirror an ordinance adopted in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The updated county ordinance could include an 18-month probationary period for dogs involved in a complaint and mandatory obedience classes for it, said Miller, who has worked on similar ordinances in California and Tennessee.

"(The intent) is to help protect the public and educate pet owners," he said. "The theory was, often times, law enforcement see indicators in dogs that, if an issue is not resolved now, it could be a greater problem."

Miller said all additions to the ordinance would be based on behavior, not a specific type of dog.

He said a draft of possible improvements could be completed at a meeting in mid-January.

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