By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A handful of dog owners say Warren County's efforts to define "intimidating" canine leave too much to the beholder.
Likewise the owners who spoke to the Board of Supervisors at a public hearing Tuesday night growled at the use of "reasonable" person when trying to quantify intimidating. Owners also questioned how the law would pertain to dogs behaving in a certain way on their private property.
Wanda Robinson and her husband, Paul, of 108 Washington Ave., own a 155-pound dog.
"If you're not a dog lover he's going to be intimidating to you," Wanda Robinson told supervisors.
She also expressed concern that county leaders might pass an ordinance that, in the future, also allows for the fair treatment of good dogs and doesn't qualify as intimidating by their appearance alone.
Kelly Walker, president of the Warren County Dog Park Association, also warned of the term "reasonable."
"I've had neighbors who have not been reasonable about even having dogs living in their neighborhood so I'm concerned that this could become a he-said, she-said kind of thing," Walker said.
After hearing the five dog owners the supervisors agreed to table the proposed ordinance, which would define intimidating dog for purposes of enforcement and prosecution in cases where the animal appears to threaten another canine or person. Supervisors asked Assistant County Attorney Dan N. Whitten to revisit the proposed ordinance and to more specifically define both terms which sparked concern.
Supervisors Richard H. Traczyk and Tony F. Carter said they agreed with the speakers' concerns.
County officials and animal control officers sought to give a authorities a third option in addition to "dangerous" or "vicious" that could lead to greater penalties.
At least a few speakers questioned whether someone with a "vendetta" against a neighbor could use the ordinance and go after the dog owner. A couple of people told supervisors neighbors have told them they would take action against the dog owner if given the chance.
County Administrator Douglas Stanley, citing Whitten, noted that several of the speakers live in Front Royal and that the town already has an ordinance which mirrors the one proposed in the county.
Supervisors had less trouble with another proposed ordinance which extended the leash law and makes it a misdemeanor if found guilty of letting a dog run unrestricted in any county park such as Eastham or Rockland Park. The leash law does not apply to the new county dog park under construction in Eastham Park and set to open Tuesday.
No one spoke at the public hearing held on the leash ordinance. As officials have explained, the current ordinance only gives park personnel the authority to enforce leash laws. Stanley noted that park workers may lack the skills necessary to handle such unrestricted dogs. Stanley told the board a recent incident involved a pit bull that its owner took to the dog park, mistakenly thinking the facility open, and let the animal roam without a leash. However, the animal ran out of the park and attacked two dogs walked on leashes by an owner or custodian along the Eastham Park trail.
Whitten told the board the attack left both leashed dogs injured, one severely.
Whitten noted that the county has received numerous complaints of dogs unleashed on park property and trails. Supervisors voted 5-0 to adopt an ordinance requiring that dog owners or custodians keep the animals on a leash or other means of control while on Eastham, Linden or Rockland parks. Violation of the ordinance can result in a fine and/or a conviction of a misdemeanor crime.