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Revised animal control ordinance would require leashed dogs

Washington County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on proposal on Tuesday

July 08, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

One of the possible revisions to Washington County’s animal-control ordinance is a requirement that dogs be leashed.

As proposed, the new version of the ordinance would say “every dog must, when off the property of its owner, be restrained by a leash.”

The Washington County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on a proposed new version of the ordinance Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Assistant County Attorney Kirk C. Downey said the leash law is a change, but not necessarily a drastic change.

Currently, owners can’t let animals roam “at large,” which is defined as “off the premises” and “not under the immediate control, charge or possession of the owner or other responsible person capable of physically restraining the animal.”

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So, the effect is roughly the same for dogs, which still would have to be under their owners’ control. The difference is the specific mandate that the dog have a leash.

The “at-large” prohibition does not apply to animals on someone else’s property with permission; dogs used for training, hunting, obedience training, rescue or law enforcement; dogs accompanied by an owner on horseback; and farmers driving herds.

Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County, was not available to comment late last week, but has said he supports a leash law.

The county adopted an animal-control ordinance in May 1990, according to the cover page of the draft revised version.

The ordinance went through two revisions in 1991, another in 2001 and a fourth in 2010, effective Jan. 1, 2011.

Downey said the leash law wasn’t the primary focus when the county set out to update its ordinance again.

Another proposed change is a definition of “excessive noise,” which is: “Barking, howling, braying, quacking, crowing or other animal noise which, due to its nature, volume, frequency, duration, time and location, unreasonably disturbs or interferes, for more than twenty (20) minutes in any one (1) hour period of any day, with the quiet enjoyment or two or more individuals who are residents of separate households.”

The ordinance would say “when an animal makes or causes excessive noise” instead of the current reference: “when an animal makes or causes excessive barking, whines or howls so as to disturb the quiet or comfort of individuals in the surrounding areas.”

The proposed version also would clarify that a farm animal, and not just a person or domesticated animal, could be a victim of a vicious and dangerous dog.

Other potential changes pertain to the appeal of an impoundment, the rules of evidence for Animal Control Authority hearings and the standard the Authority should use for considering violations — “by clear and convincing evidence.”


If you go ...

What: public hearing on proposed revisions to Washington County animal-control ordinance

When: Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Where: Room 227, county administration building, 100 W. Washington St., Hagerstown

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