Allen Worrell, News Writer
December 22, 2009
Although no public hearing was set for its December meeting, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors heard plenty of howling about a proposed nuisance dog ordinance.
Under the proposed ordinance, it would be a violation of law for a dog owner to allow the animal to trespass on private property. It would also allow citizens to make complaints about trespassing dogs. A subsequent complaint and violation regarding the same dog within one year of written notice by the Animal Control Office of the first violation can be punished as a Class 3 Misdemeanor under the proposed ordinance, which can be found online at (http://carrollcountyva.org/govt_template/proposed_ordinances/).
During the boards Dec. 7 meeting, Chairman David Hutchins told the crowd that the ordinance is not a leash law, nor does it deny hunters the right of retrieval. Acknowledging the large amount of citizens wishing to discuss the ordinance, Hutchins said a public meeting had not been set. Upon a motion by Supervisor Wes Hurst and a second by Andy Jackson, the board elected to hold a public hearing on the matter at its January meeting. Regardless, 10 different citizens spoke out on the proposed ordinance during Citizens Time.
Susan Phipps spoke in favor of the ordinance, noting she fears for the safety of her 3-year-old child because of her neighbors dogs.
Our neighbors dogs stay on our property, in our trash, scratching paint off our vehicles, growling at our 3-year-old, Phipps said.
Phipps said shes had to contact Animal Control Officer Terry Woods six times this year about the dogs. She said the neighbors will cooperate while he is there, but turn the dogs loose again within 15 to 20 minutes once hes left.
I love dogs. We have two dogs, Phipps said. But I think it is the folks that are irresponsible and have no respect for authority and the dog warden. They just dont care.
Phipps said the family cant even get to their property across the road from where they live because the dogs come charging in the road. Her husband has been bit by a neighbors dog and she is afraid her son will get bit as well.
(The neighbors) just dont care. They live by their own rules and they expect everybody else to do it, too. And I am scared. I am afraid our child is going to be harmed, Phipps said. We are calling and calling, they are going to bite my child. And if something really does happen I think it could be a huge liability because (the dog wardens) hands are tied.
Ray Cox said the ordinance would hurt the county, local veterinarians, and he said nobody would keep a hunting dog.
When I was a kid I had an old aggressive dog. The dog warden came and he said, you tie it or Ill kill it, Cox said. Has the laws changed since that time?
Citizen Michelle Howell said she was responsible for the ordinance after previously telling the board about two vicious dogs in her neighborhood that threaten her children. She has no problem with the coon dogs that cross her property or hunting dogs. But shes afraid some people may use the ordinance the wrong way because of the way it is worded. She said Carrolls animal control officer needs to be given more authority to deal with vicious dogs.
If it is vicious, I think he ought to be able to pick it up. If they get fined, thats fine. And if they do it again I think they should be able to euthanize them. We are taxpaying citizens. If a dog tries to bite us we have a right to defend ourselves without persecution, Howell said. That is why I am here and I am sorry If I stepped on anybodys feet, but I am a parent and I am just trying to protect my family. I dont want a leash law and I dont have problem with peoples dogs crossing my property. It is just these vicious dogs that are going to attack someone, that is where we need to have rights as citizens to do something about it.
Becky Rogers said she and her husband moved to Carroll six years ago. Since that time theyve had continuous problems with a neighbor, who is a dog breeder.
They have many dogs. We had cattle, calves. We dont have them now. We had goats, we had chickens. All of our animals have been chased and attacked by these dogs, Rogers said. We have called many times to Mr. Woods and that has been ineffective. These dogs will stay up all night long howling. We cant sleep and they come on our property and we cant shoo them away. They are aggressive. They growl, they bare their teeth, they come after us.
One cat had its cheek pulled apart by the neighboring dogs, which number more than 20, she said. She said she doesnt mind coon dogs or hunting dogs because there wont be 20 or them and they arent going to chase her farm animals or house pets.
She said she doesnt want to feel threatened in her own yard. She said the sheriff has told her Carroll is a fence-out county, meaning citizens must put up a fence to keep unwanted animals out of their yard.
I dont feel that I should have to pay three to five thousand dollars to fence off my property because someone else is irresponsible and wont take care of their animals, Rogers said. These animals are left alone and unattended sometimes five days in a row. They came over when I had my calves and two of them were eating the calves grain. We had burn barrels and they were circling the burn barrels. Another neighbor called and they circled a cow and calf and starting tearing the calf apart alive and eating it. Now suppose I had a child. This could be dangerous.
Steven Combs is the President of the local Professional Kennels Club and the director of the Blue Ridge Youth Coon Hunters Association. He said the kennel club boosts the local economy by holding 10 to 12 events in the county every month. He estimated those events annually bring in $8,000 to $10,000 to the county.
Carroll will host the Virginia State Championships in March, which he said will probably bring in $20,000 by itself. Another large event in August will bring in about $30,000, he said.
If we lose it, it wont meet the goals for us because our economy is a mess right now. We should be looking to grow instead of going back, Combs said. There is nine people in the county that make most of their income from training or participating in these events. There are 41 in our state. If they are in our state making a living coon hunting, they will be in our county.
He said 27 youth in Carroll participate in the local youth coon hunting association.
Id rather have these young kids hunting than being on the streets and messing in things they shouldnt be, Combs said, noting the organization led one young man to attend college, while another went from skipping school to being an honor student because the club stresses academics in order to coon hunt.
I have several that became better students and had better attendance and do better work because to participate you have to do all that, Combs said. Our goal is keeping kids off the street. In the past four years, weve brought in $15,000 in scholarship money to these kids.
Elizabeth Yon said shes been chased by two aggressive dogs in her neighborhood that bare their teeth and creep up on her. She said it is not an isolated incident and she has young grandchildren that visit her home. She said shes talked to the dog warden, the sheriffs department and the Commonwealths Attorney about the dogs.
And the answer we get is unless the dog bites somebody, there is nothing we can do. Now if he kills your chicken, if he kills you cat, well say he is a vicious dog and we will take care of it, Yon said. Gentlemen, I am more important than a chicken.
Since the proposed ordinance is complaint based, citizen Bruce Cruise said hes afraid others will report hunters to the law and will overload the phone lines of local law enforcement agencies. He said the county needs to find a way to give Woods the power to declare dogs vicious, that way he can get rid of or euthanize vicious animals.
If a dog comes in my yard and bites one of my kids, I am not going to worry about the law. I am going to kill that dog, Cruise said. The easiest way to solve this is to give Terry the power and the right to say, Put the dog in a kennel. If it gets out again I am going to have it put down. That is the simplest way and that doesnt open the door to any hunters, to start bothering us. Yall have enough problems with jobs, health and everything else instead of worrying about dogs. I hate it for these ladies, but vicious dogs arent hunting dogs.
Janet Tate said citizens should be able to enjoy their property without being nervous about dogs. She said its not an issue about hunting dogs. She said the animal control officer needs an ordinance to help the folks that feel threatened.
Debbie Brady Goad said the ordinance would overburden local law enforcement.
I think they have too much as it is with the burglaries, the bad checks, the breaking and enterings, the murders and rapes, the trespassing, without worrying about a dog or cat or cow or fish or whatever, she said. I think it is going to overburden the judicial system.
Goad said if a citizen has a problem with a neighbors dog, they need to call the neighbor. If that doesnt correct the problem, she suggested taking it to the curt system and let a judge or jury decide. Carroll already has a vicious animal ordinance, she said.
You cannot legislate good neighbors. It aint gonna happen, Goad said. Lets just use a little bit of common sense. Lets give Terry Woods some authority to declare what is a nuisance...But lets use some commonsense and lets not overburden our system.
Citizen Donna Perry said there is a difference between a vicious dog and a nuisance dog. She doesnt think the county will be able to control animals trespassing.
At the conclusion of Citizens Time, County Administrator Gary Larrowe asked Woods to speak about dangerous and vicious dogs, and what he has the authority to do. Woods said a dangerous dog is one that has bitten or inflicted injury on a person or companion animal. A vicious dog is one that has killed a person or inflicted serious injury to a person, including multiple bites, serious disfigurement, serious impairment to health or bodily function, and continues to exhibit such behavior.
Woods said he is aware of many of the problems citizens spoke about, but in most situations people dont want to pursue the matter in court.
The Commonwealth has said...if they have not been bitten or (there has not been) some kind of contact, it is not a dangerous dog, Woods said.
Woods said he does have the authority to declare a dog vicious, but then the owner must do certain things such as take out $100,000 in liability insurance, purchase a special tag for $100, and build a special pen.
Most of the time people cant afford to do so, Woods said. You cant find an insurance company to give you insurance for $100,000 on a biting dog that has killed something, so they turn (the dog) over.
During Supervisors Time, Pipers Gap District Supervisor Dr. Tom Littrell asked if the countys attorney could write an ordinance to reinforce the states ordinance regarding vicious dogs.