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Posted August 17, 2012 | comments 28 Comments

Warren County eyes stricter leash laws in parks

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County may soon tighten its leash laws and muzzle its growling dogs.

Now the Board of Supervisors plans to put teeth in its leash laws in an effort to reign in dogs left to roam unrestricted. The matter comes up for a public hearing Tuesday.

County Administrator Douglas Stanley said the office has received complaints from residents about owners or custodians allowing dogs in their care to run off-leash on the walking trails at Eastham Park and Rockland Park. Both parks lie outside the town limits.

As Stanley explained Friday the county has regulations pertaining to owners walking dogs without leashes. However under the current rules only parks and recreation staff can enforce the leash requirements.

Such restrictions would not apply to the Warren County Dog Park in Eastham Park set to open later this month. Stanley noted that the county began working on ways to address the complaints prior to the construction of the dog park.

Animal control officers with the sheriff's office have expressed a willingness to enforce a leash law limited to county parks, according to Stanley.

The proposed ordinance defines an unrestricted dog as a canine not under control of the owner or its agent either by leash, cord, chain or primary enclosure when of the property of premises of the owner or custodian. The ordinance would prohibit the owner or custodian from allowing the dog to run unrestricted within the boundaries of any public park in the county but outside the town limits.

"Rather than being a park rule and park staff having to enforce it, in addition the sheriff's office can assist us with enforcing these regulations now," Stanley said.

Any person found guilty faces conviction of a class 4 misdemeanor and a fine, according to county information. A person may also prepay the $50 fine plus costs through the Warren County General District Court.

Supervisors plan to address another dog-related matter during a public hearing Tuesday.

Animal control officers have been involved in situations where a dog has acted aggressively toward a person or other animal but did not inflict any bodily injury to either human or animal, according to information from the county.

Animal control only has the authority to label an aggressive dog as either "dangerous" or "vicious." With an ordinance defining "intimidating dog," animal control could follow procedures set forth in the proposed regulations for the court to determine such dog is "intimidating."

As the administrator explained, in a situation where a dog nips at another canine or a person in Warren County, a judge only has the option to declare the offending animal either vicious or dangerous or to give no designation. Owners or custodians of a dog declared vicious or dangerous by a judge must follow strict regulations while maintaining the animal.

"So this is a lesser standard that we don't have now, but it's less onerous than having them declared a dangerous or vicious dog," Stanley said.

The proposed ordinance defines an intimidating dog as a canine that attacks, charges or approaches, or attempts these actions against a person or other animal while barking, growling or in any other threatening manner and under circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to be startled, afraid or in fear of such dog.

Law enforcement can charge the owner or custodian with a misdemeanor for continuing to allow an intimidating dog to run at-large or unrestrained without a muzzle in a public place or private place open to the public, according to the county information.

Under circumstances listed in the proposed ordinance, a dog displaying such behavior may not qualify as intimidating. Those instances include: If both animals share the same owner; where the owner or custodian could lawfully use force to defend person or property under the same circumstances; if the dog is engaged with the owner or custodian as part of a lawful hunting or lawful dog-handling event; where the dog has been provoked, tormented, abused or assaulted; if the dog is a police dog engaged in the performance of its duties; if the dog was responding to an injury or was protecting itself, its kennel or offspring; or for good cause as determined by the court.

The proposed ordinance also states no canine or crossbreed can be found "intimidating" solely because of its breed, nor is the ownership of a particular breed prohibited.

28 Comments | Leave a comment

    There they go again. Criminalizing another activity. What is the crime in letting a dog off the leash? Yes, this behaviour should be prohibited but do it in the civil code and impose just fines.

    Let's leave the criminal code and sanctions to REAL crimes, like muggings, murders and assaults.

    While we are at it, examine the imposition of "costs" as a stealth form of taxation. Has the media reported on how much they rake in this way? If the courts need money for their building fund, etc., let the General Assembly debate and vote the money. Hmm..maybe under scrutiny, citizens will realize the waste, fraud and abuse in the criminal justice system as it operates in Virginia, and de-fund the entire operation.

      No, about you KEEP YOUR DOG ON A LEASH. Good Lord, it isn't that hard. I can't even take my leashed dogs for walks because of all of the unleashed ones running around.

      I've also had to undergo the entire series of rabies shots because of an unleashed dog attacking my dog, and biting me when I pulled him off. At a cost of over $2,000 thankyouverymuch. Not to mention the inconvenience of weekly trips to the hospital infusion center for the shots.

      So you can talk government waste all day long. But until people have the common sense to act like responsible dog owners, you can expect to be fined for breaking the law.

      And the next dog that charges my 15 year old, blind, deaf, limping old man of a dog, is getting pepper sprayed and kicked in the head. So you might want to keep him on a leash instead.

    Snarks, I'll hand you a damn pistol, that would to the job.These people that let there dogs run loose have no clue. I guess i live in a rural place, but you get the Gist. You definately need a pipe wrench in hand when you spray them darn varmits....that will do the job...beat em in the head.

      I carry pepper spray when I run, I'm afraid I'd shoot myself if I took a pistol running. Sweaty hands, out of breath, wobbly 41 year old legs, all that.

      But the pepper spray is right at my waist, and I've had to draw it a few times for loose dogs. I love dogs. I don't want to pepper spray a dog. But I'm not going to wait until they bite me, either. I've seen how quickly a dog attack happens, and I'm not going to sit him down and ask him his intentions.

      If your loose dog charges me, my kid, or my dog, and he gives me any indication whatsoever that he is aggressive, I will spray him.

      Even if you are standing 20 yards away, waving to me, and telling me 'oh, he's ok!' No. He's. Not. OK.

    Yep I reckon a pipe wrench would be hard to run with! Maybe some needle nose plyers though. Excuse the spelling. I hate to hurt a dog, but a few need a bit of wipping.

    Before anyone even thinks about violence against a companion animal (this includes feral cats) please be aware that you could be prosecuted for cruelty to animals. This is the kind of case Madden and his motley crew would relish. Gives them a win with no effort. And you would become a convicted criminal.

      I don't go around looking for dogs to spray, poochie.

      But I've seen how quickly an attack can happen, and I'm not going to stand there and get bitten or let my dog be injured again. As I said, I don't take my young dog with me because of the loose dogs, and my old dog isn't able to walk long enough to go with me.

      I honestly hate the idea of hurting an animal. ( especially since its the pet owners that should be getting hit with the pipe wrench )

      Just keep your dogs on a leash. Or fenced in your yard. I don't want to see them getting hit by cars, either.

      All I've ever done to cats is spray them with the garden hose when they go in my veggie garden. I suppose that is a rant for a different news story, though

    poochie, keep your poodle on a leash! Please. I don't think anyone was talking about feral cats, hopefully they are getting spayed and neutered the cats that is. Feral cats are a menace to nature. Not too many birds flying around them sites with feral cat huts.

    I can only speak from my experience in saying a lady jogged by our home with my wife outside and the dogs barked at her my wife called the dogs and she tried to pepper spray them and missed. Our dogs never left the yard and some neighbors suggested my wife call the police the police came and asked if the pepper spray got on the animals or my wife because if it did they would charge her for assault. Another cop caught up with the lady and she explained other dogs in the neighborhood had chased her. So the cop suggested she ran in the park up the street have not seen her since been more than 5 years ago. May be different in Warren this occurred in Frederick so just be aware all actions have consequences and they might not work out as you wish.

      Yeah. I don't spray dogs that are IN THEIR YARDS. How hard is this? If your dog charges out into the street after me, I am going to assume it will bite me. If your dog barks at me from its yard, I will say 'hi doggy!' and continue on my way.

      And people in the park let their dogs run loose, too. So I'm not sure how that's helpful.

      Keep your dog under your physical control, either fenced or leashed. It is what responsible pet owners do. Period.

        The last sentence won't happen, you know that, to difficult for humans. So keep your spray handy, and and juice em if they come into road. When I lived full time in the country, I went for an initial run of the season and the most fierce dalmation ever forced me to jump over a pasture fence. Next time I was ready. I took the spray out of my pocket about 2/10 before the property (little early but I wanted make sure it was pointing the right way). He came on the attack and I let him have it. He stopped and started pawing at his eyes. My only concern at that point was him getting hit by car but he made it back. After that he never hardly as so much barked at me. One thing I did do because I did not know the owners, is cross to the wrong side of the road to be as far away as possible. When he got it he was a good 10ft out in the road. That I did to take away the ambiguity, if contested, about if he was on his home property or not or if I should have even sprayed at all. That also should be enough to show reasonable response to any officer that is called.

    Yet another reason to NEVER visit/live/think about coming to Front Royal.....or as I think it should be renamed "The People's Republic of Front Royal".

    Dog park = Park for DOGS.....NOT a park for whiny residents who are afraid of dogs & cry cry cry because heaven forbid, someone else might enjoy themselves.

    Here is a newsflash....Leash Laws are NOT in effect in the county (with the exception of very few subdivisons). If your dog has a current dog tag (yet another yearly tax) & is found "running loose" by the dog warden, they have the power to do absolutely nothing to it. IF it doesnt have a current dog tag, they will take it to the local humane society until you pay them to release it.

    This article proves yet again why EVERY locality surrounding Front Royal/Warren County is better. And for all of you that live there or are planning to move there....this is nothing compared to trying to do ANYTHING else through the Warren County OR Front Royal planning/zoning office, building permits, licenses, etc.

    Front Royal is like a bad relationship, you will never know how bad it sucks until you get out!

      Such restrictions would not apply to the Warren County Dog Park in Eastham Park set to open later this month.

      To clarify.."would not apply to the dog park"

      Everyone else has the right to use the OTHER parks without worrying about dogs running lose. Its a shame we need laws to enforce common sense.

      Do you honestly think that I am talking about going jogging in a dog park? And being shocked that there are dogs?

      Once more. (I'm typing slowly so you can follow along)

      Keep your dogs under your physical control. Either fenced or leashed.

      Or expect them to be pepper sprayed and kicked in the head.

      Which is a shame, really. As it is the irresponsible dog *owners* that actually deserve the pepper spray and head kick.

    Hey Snarks, when I used to have a desk job, i had one of them comical calendars that I turned each page for each day. And most time something hillarious on there. I like the jogging in the dog park, that would fit right in with this calendar.

    Why are we wasting money on a dog park if we are going to make leash laws a crie or start enforcing them? If this was the case then it should have been bought up in the meeting when they started planning for the park. Come on make up your minds!!


      Do you understand what a dog park is?

      It's a large fenced in area. For dogs. So they can run and play off leash without getting pepper sprayed by evil joggers, and run over by trucks.

      They arrive at the park while attached to a leash. They enter the gated dog park. They are released from their leash. They commence running, fetching, butt sniffing, and dog hooliganism. Then they are leashed, and taken home. Where they sleep the sleep of a played out dog.

    I'm sure my grandparents and great grandparents are rolling over in their graves, with parks for dogs. I could see my grandad now with taking his rabbit beagle or coon dog to a park to run. I know I'm silly. the "the times are a "changing": I know I'm hyper critical on this issue, and we are becoming a very populated area, so I guess this dog park is a good thing. I live in shen county and we are working on one also...so I hear, but not 100 percent sure!

    Anyway, wow what a beautiful night out....great weather. And go Redskins.

    You know it seems to me that if the county would implement a leash law, perhaps the owners can be held liable for any attacks just like in town. I live in the county and have found dogs on my property in my trash and lets say they recieve a message to stay away. If a person really cared for their animal, they would not let it run loose, too many bad things can happen. Every person has the right to defend themselves if they are threatened by a dog no matter what size the animal is. Just my opinion.

    County needs Money to pay for new regional jail, public safety building, remodeling of the former 15th school. Citizens will be encouraged to visit the new dog park. They are hoping that you will not use your leash. When you are caught, they are hoping that you will protest having to use a leash in a fenced in park made for dogs to run. You will then be arrested by the sherrif and taken to the new safety building where you can only be held for a day before you are then wisped away to the new regional
    Good news for the county: they are increasing the revenue to pay for all the new jails they have built.
    Moral of the story: don't let your dog off the leash in the new dog park.

    Y'all got it all wrong. It's "Frunt Rawl"

    Shark. I can not wait until Bubba's pit bull has his way with little Cookie the Cocker Spaniel in the open fenced area. It will be like letting the inmates loose in the prison yard. I predict there will nothing but complaints about unrulely dogs with unrulely owners. Frunt Rawl is not ready for this type of park. Keep your dog on a leash, enjoy the walk in the park and turn the dog Park into a sports field. I know the kids would like this. And is all I'm gonna say about that.

      Does this mean that the Town will be liable for injuries and damage done by Bubba's pit bull? If so, then the Town will need to add another assistant town attorney to handle all the new litigation.

      Might be better to set aside acreage in Avtex for HellTown where anything goes. Saloons, gun fights, dog maulings - like a redneck Knott's Berry Farm. Could become a tourist attraction. After all, Rednecks are as much a part of the Town's history and culture as anyone else.

    Believe it or not, this is not a town issue. This is the county's problem to handle when citizens bring their pit bulls down for a run.

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