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City considers pet waste pickup rules

August 21, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - The Hagerstown City Council is scheduled this afternoon to discuss drafting ordinances that would require residents to clean up after their pets and keep the animals leashed in public.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said Washington County already has an ordinance that prohibits dogs from urinating and defecating on private property. That ordinance also prohibits dogs from defecating on public property unless the waste is cleaned up, he said.

Smith said one proposal that he plans to take before the council involves mirroring the county ordinance, yet improving it by making it easier for residents to file complaints with the Humane Society of Washington County - the agency that is responsible for enforcement.

Because the humane society is understaffed and often cannot respond to complaints in a timely manner, the proposal would allow police and code compliance officers to help by recording grievances, he said. Those grievances would be passed on to the humane society for administrative handling.

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Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County, said violators of the county's animal waste ordinance are fined $25 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $250 for the third offense.

It is difficult to enforce the law, however, unless someone gets caught red-handed by an enforcement official or a resident takes a photograph of the violation, he said.

"(But) we'll respond to all complaints in one way or another," Miller said.

As for a leash law, he said neither the city nor county has one that covers all dogs.

One exception involves animals that have been deemed vicious and dangerous, he said.

To be deemed vicious and dangerous, an animal must attack a human or another animal without provocation, according to county documents.

People are considered to be in control of their pets when the animal is not leashed and responds to voice commands, Miller said.

If that animal doesn't respond to its owner and misbehaves, the owner could be subject to the same fines that apply to the county's animal waste ordinance, he said.

Smith said a leash ordinance within the city would create a safer atmosphere for people and animals.

John Lestitian, the city's chief code enforcement officer, said when it comes to animals, his office only has the authority to make a pet owner clean up droppings that have accumulated on his or her own property.

The city pretty much has its hands tied when an animal does the deed in someone else's yard.

"We're very limited ... We deal with conditions - not actions," he said.

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