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Public weighs in on possible animal control revisions

July 10, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Joe Frey addresses revisions of the proposed animal control ordinance Tueday evening during meeting of the Washington County Board of Commissioners. At rear is Humane Society of Washington County Executive Director Paul Miller.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

People with comments about Washington County’s animal control ordinance told stories Tuesday of dogs running loose, biting people and killing animals.

A jogger and a bicyclist said they’ve been targets. A farmer said 20 of his sheep were attacked and 15 of them died.

Thirteen people spoke during the public hearing, many with strong opinions about how the county should try to control dogs and prevent attacks.

The county is considering several revisions to its animal control ordinance, including a new requirement that any dog be leashed when away from its owner’s property.

Under the current ordinance, 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.”

The proposed new ordinance also would define “excessive noise” by an animal.

Farm animals could join people and domesticated animals as possible victims of vicious and dangerous dogs.

During the public hearing, Ellen Gilbert of Boonsboro said she favors the leash law. She said she has been chased and bitten by dogs more than once while riding her bicycle.

Tom Berry of Rohrersville said dogs have bitten him while he jogged. He urged the county to include something in the ordinance about the rights of people as dogs are coming after them. Can people throw stones or sticks at dogs? Use pepper spray?

Berry suggested owners be required to have insurance before getting a license for a dog.

Angie Harsh had a long list of things that concerned her about the ordinance. She questioned, for example, the “excessive noise” definition, which refers to “[b]arking, howling, braying, quacking, crowing or other animal noise” under certain conditions. She quipped that the county should have kept going and added other noises, such as the croaking of frogs.

Betty Reedy of Hagerstown said she’s tired of people in her neighborhood letting their dogs defecate on her lawn, then walking away without cleaning up the feces. She said it creates a mess, especially when she mows the grass.

“If I wanted to clean up after a dog, I’d get one,” she said.

“We’re living in a nightmare,” Penny Nigh of Hagerstown said about the number of dogs running loose in the city.

Most people who spoke wanted the commissioners to add new restrictions to the ordinance.

But Bob Waugh of Hagerstown went against the flow. He said all of the complaints mentioned already are prohibited.

One change he suggested is making the penalties stiffer, creating a stronger incentive for compliance.

The county commissioners took no action after the public hearing and are expected to revisit the proposed revisions at a future meeting.

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