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Washington County approves new animal control ordinance

New rules include leash law and defines 'excessive noise' by an animal

October 23, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

Washington County’s newly revised animal control ordinance includes a leash law.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the ordinance on Tuesday, more than three months after holding a public hearing.

The new ordinance also defines “excessive noise” by an animal.

The leash law adds a new layer to the county’s requirement that animals can’t roam “at large.”

The new version of the ordinance says “every Dog must, when off the property of its Owner, be restrained by a leash.”

Even before the leash law, though, the county already required animals to be “under the immediate control, charge, or possession of the Owner or other responsible person capable of physically restraining the animal.”

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Before passing the new version, the county commissioners discussed finer points of the law and whether it could be improved further.

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham wondered if the county could set standards for the length of a dog’s leash. One dog owner might have a 25-foot leash, while another uses 100 feet of rope, she said.

Commissioner William B. McKinley said he liked 25 feet as a starting point.

But Deputy County Attorney Kirk C. Downey said a particular leash might work for a poodle but be inadequate for a Great Dane; common sense should apply.

He noted that the concept of having a dog “under control” didn’t change through the revisions.

At a public hearing in July, several county residents spoke in favor of a leash law as a way to keep dogs under control. Some told stories of being attacked or bothered by dogs while the people jogged or rode bicycles.

Downey drafted two options for the “excessive noise” definition and asked the commissioners to choose.

The commissioners picked: “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 of two or more Individuals who are residents of separate households.”

Downey said the “separate households” provision was included to set a higher bar than disputes between neighbors.

The new ordinance will take effect on Jan. 1.

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