County may tighten dog laws

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By Jenny Hartley

County Council will consider an ordinance Monday night that would designate three dog breeds, including pit bulls, as dangerous.

Council will consider first reading of an ordinance that would tighten several of the county’s animal control laws, including how an owner provides water and shelter for dogs kept outside.

The ordinance also designates pit bulls, American bull dogs and perro de Presa Canario dogs, or Canary dogs, as dangerous. Pit bulls have gotten a bad reputation in recent years because they are sometimes used in illegal dog fighting.

Canary dogs are a large mastiff-like breed from the Canary Islands used to guard livestock that are gaining in popularity.

Last year, an American bulldog attacked a girl in Lancaster County.

Under the ordinance, owners of these breeds would have to register their animals annually, provide proof of liability insurance and have

their dogs wear a fluorescent yellow or orange collar that identifies them as a dangerous breed.

The ordinance specifies that if these breeds are not kept indoors, they are to be kept in a pen of heavy-gauge wire with a minimum 4-inch thick concrete floor, with 8-feet sides or a secure top.

The dog owners would also have to post at least one warning sign that reads, “Caution – dangerous animal on this property.”

Council members Jack Estridge, Wayne Kersey and Wesley Grier have been working on a committee to form the ordinance for at least a year.

“There was initial talk about flat-out banning them,” said County Administrator Steve Willis. “But it’s not a breed-banning ordinance. You can own these type dogs if you want.”

Grier said Friday that he knows a lot of people will be unhappy about the proposal, but he’s comfortable with the ordinance.

“I’m an animal lover,” Grier said. “I don’t believe they’re all dangerous. But do you want to take a chance with a child? You’ve got to be responsible for that dangerous animal. You’ve got to keep it penned up. Animal Control is going to enforce it.”

Lancaster County Animal Control director Joel Hinson said he thinks the county does need to tighten up on its dangerous animal laws.

He didn’t have an opinion on the breed-specific part of the proposal. He approves of the pen requirements for outdoor dogs.

“It would help contain them a little bit better,” Hinson said.

If the pit bulls involved in Thursday evening’s attack on two 10-year-old boys had been in a pen required by the proposed ordinance, the attack wouldn’t have happened, Hinson said.

Pit bull owner Christina Chastain disagrees with the proposed ordinance. She’s owned her 5-year-old pit bull, Pthalo, since he was 5 weeks old.

“This is the best animal I’ve ever had,” Chastain said. “He’s my best friend. He sleeps in the bed with me.”

Dangerous, individual dogs are the responsibility of their owners, Chastain said.

“I think the county should address the owners,” she said. “Not all dogs need to be classified as killers. I’m strongly against this. This goes against my rights as a citizen.”

Chastain plans to address council with her concerns Monday.

Council meets at 6 p.m. in chambers on the second floor of the County Administration Building, 101 N. Main St. For details, call 285-1565.

Contact Jenny Hartley at 283-1151 or jhartley@thelancasternews.com