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Supervisors postpone dog rule, extend leash law

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

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.


Well, it did not take long for Bubba's pit bull to grab the headlines. Now just imagine Bubba's pit bull now running free in the inclosed area and the damage he can do to the other dogs running free. The real shame is when another sistuation like the above pit bull story happens again and it will. This will create more problems, complains and alot of new law suites. The dog park is a good thought but bad reality. Too many irresponsible dog owners in this area. I can see people showing up at the park and not going in because Bubba's pit bull is running free. Might be a good idea to let the dogs run at the outside area at the new regional jail. It has more supervision and might be good therapy for the inmates.

In my experience, people that take the time to drive to the dog park so their dog can play off leash, have well behaved dogs. They are typically the same people that take the time to train and socialize their dogs. I'm sure there are exceptions, but people with aggressive dogs are usually the same people that either let them run loose, or pen them in the yard. Irresponsible dog owners don't take the time to go to the dog park.

Also, there is a separate area for small and old dogs.

Excellent comment, and I agree. I look forward to the day when an owner will have to pay for their dog's aggressive behavior rather than the ill-trained dog.

Snark, I love your positive attitude. I really think it's a great asset for our community to attract young professionals to live in our community. Maybe you can answer some of my concerns.
Do we have a full time county employee that watches for aggressive dog behavior? Like a lifeguard is at a pool.
Do you receive 3 aggressive dog warning and on the 3rd you get your right to go to the park revoked for a period of time.
If you witness bad our aggressive behavior by either the dog or the owner, who are you going to call? I had a wild rabid raccoon around my house after 5pm and I could not get the animal control office until the next day.
How do you get the person's name without being afraid they might come by your house later for a talk?
Do have to catch the behavior in the act with a witness to back you up if the guilty party is in denial of the situation .
Lastly, if an aggressive dog hurts another dog or a human on County property, who pays the legal fees.
Please help me out. I hate thinking negative.

This is the park rules that the Warren County Dog Park Association posted to their Facebook page today. As far as enforcement, I can't imagine they have the budget for a dog park lifeguard. If I had an issue with someone at the dog park, I would do what I would do anywhere else. Keep myself safe, while getting a description, possibly license plate number, and hope that any witnesses would offer their assistance.

The park is for dogs and their owners/handlers only.  No animals other than dogs shall be permitted.  No other activities are allowed.
 Owners/handlers are responsible and liable for any injuries caused by dogs under their control.  Users of the park acknowledge the risks of physical injury and assume the full risk of any injuries. 
All users of the park agree to fully release and hold harmless Warren County and its employees and agents from any and all claims from injury at the park. 
All dogs must have a current Warren County dog license, be vaccinated and healthy and shall be collared or harnessed with dog license and owner identification. No spike collars or choke chains. 
Absolutely NO unattended dogs. 
Dogs must be kept on a leash until inside the double-gated entry. Enter the first gate with the leash on and remove it prior to entering the second gate. Do the reverse when leaving. 
Owners/Handlers MUST IMMEDIATELY clean up after their dogs and properly dispose of waste. 
Owners/Handlers are liable for and must repair all damage to the park caused by the owner/handler or their dogs.  Dogs are not allowed to dig in the park, but if holes are dug, they must be covered immediately. 
Owners/Handlers must have a leash in hand at all times and dogs must be under control of their owner/handler and in view at all times.  Stay alert.  Dog play can escalate to more than play very quickly.  
Maximum of three (3) dogs per owner/handler is allowed.  All dogs must be under control and in sight of the owner/handler. 
Dogs MUST be removed from the park at the first sign of aggression.  NO EXCEPTIONS.  Dogs with a history of aggressive behavior will not be permitted. 
Dogs that have been labeled a “Dangerous Dog” or “Intimidating Dog” under the County/Town Code are not allowed in the park. 
No dogs under 4 months of age and no female dogs in heat will be allowed. 
Only small dogs or elderly dogs are allowed in the small dog area. 
Children 8 and under are not allowed in the off-leash area.  Children 9 – 15 must be accompanied by an adult.  Handlers must be at least 16 years of age. 
No food of any kind is allowed.  Dog training treats are allowed.  No drinks in glass containers.  Smoking is not allowed in the off-leash area. 
Violators will be subject to removal from the park and park privileges suspended. 
For any questions/concerns or to schedule special events, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at (540) 635-7750. 
For emergencies, contact Animal Control at (540) 635-4128.

Intimidating v. reasonable? Sounds like a litigation bonanza. More animal control officers and attorneys for the BOS to hire. Definitely will need $ for a park video security system.

The name Unreel fits you well. You are so uneducated about dogs that you can't even spell. I am a proud pit bull owner. He is well-behaved and has as much right to run in a public area as your dog, whatever breed it may be. Interesting that you don't post it. I am neither an inmate, nor is my name "Bubba". Get your facts straight...a Yorkie will bite just as quickly as a pit bull, given the right circumstances. Education and attention are what ALL dogs need in order to behave in public...just like humans.

Stacy, you missed my point and my sarcasm . I think the park is a great feature for our community. I did not make up the story about the pit bull. If it had been some other bred of dog i would have used them as an example. I have large dogs myself and my greatest fear is that a few uneducated dog owners will ruin something good for everyone else. Even now you take a risk walking your dog at the park dealing with unleashed dogs. I was pushing for a set of clear rules for people to follow and what are the consequences for those that disobey. The pit bull bred can be an excellent dog with good training and a diligent owner as with any bred of dog. I just don't think that FR is ready for this type of responsibility . I hope I am wrong.

Just to clarify a few things. I'm not an irresponsible dog owner that took my dog to the dog park to intentionally attack another dog. There were NO signs posted that the park wasn't open and that part of the fence that he got out of didn't look like the other 2 gates but did look like part of the farm fence. My "vicious" pitbull lives with 4 cats and 2 other dogs....3 of these animals became part of our family after he did and he has never been aggressive toward them or any person.We recently moved to a rental house in town while our home is being built and he is used to having acres of fenced in land to run and has been very unhappy here. We called a dog trainer who told us doggie camp wouldn't do him any good but suggested we buy a treadmill for him to and when that didn't work multiple people at my job recommended the dog park. I thought wjat a perfect idea! The other dog involved came up to the fence and started snapping at him and had we known there was another gate we wouldn't have let him off his leash. So before people judge dog owners and pitbulls in general remember ANY dog can get in a fight. It's just the damage a pitbull can do. There's a lot of things that could've been done to avoid this situation but ultimately he's our dog and we take responsibility!

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