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City proposes amendment to animal ordinance

February 21, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN

The Hagerstown City Council is considering making it illegal for people to keep vicious and dangerous animals within city limits.

Police Chief Arthur Smith said during a City Council work session Tuesday that the intent of an proposed ordinance amendment is to reduce the number of repeat attacks by the same animal.

The amendment does not specify specific breeds of animals, Smith said. To be deemed vicious and dangerous, an animal would have to bite a human or attack another animal without provocation, he said.

Only a small percentage of animals, including dogs, are deemed vicious and dangerous, Smith said. Fifteen dogs in the city currently fit that description, which is outlined in a Washington County animal control ordinance.

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Smith said owners would have a right to appeal if their animal is deemed vicious and dangerous.

"It's certainly fair to the dog owner," he said.

The existing ordinance requires the owners of vicious and dangerous animals to "keep such animal confined in a building or other secure enclosure ... to prevent direct contact between the animal and human beings or other animals."

Before it leaves a confined area, the animal must be muzzled, leashed and under the control of a person who is 16 or older, according to the ordinance.

Under the amendment, the owner of a vicious and dangerous animal would be required to remove it from the city within 90 days.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner recommended removing such an animal at once, should the animal commit another offense during the 90-day period.

"That dog has got to be removed immediately and quarantined," he said.

Metzner made those comments after Smith told the council that last September, after it was deemed vicious and dangerous, a dog attacked a man and killed that man's dog in the city's West End.

The owners of vicious and dangerous animals must provide written notice if the animal is sold or given away, according to the proposed amendment. Violation of the ordinance would be a misdemeanor and punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The council is scheduled to introduce the amendment during Tuesday's meeting.

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