Revised dog control ordinance up for a vote Monday

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By Jenny Hartley

County Council will go to the dogs again Monday night, this time with a revamped ordinance on animal control laws.

Last month, council drew both the ire and support of residents when it proposed designating all pit bulls, American bulldogs and Perro de Presa Canario dogs as dangerous, regardless of whether the dogs have ever attacked anyone.

The original ordinance called for owners of these breeds to house outdoor dogs in heavy-gauge wire pens with concrete floors, to register them with Lancaster County Animal Control and to post a “Caution – dangerous animal on this property” sign at their homes. The proposed ordinance also called for the dogs to wear flourescent yellow or orange collars.

Pit bull owners crowded council chambers last month in protest of the proposal. Most said they were against breed-specific laws, and said such laws should target irresponsible owners, not all individual dogs of a certain breed.

Supporters of the proposal, who included residents who have been bitten or have children who have been attacked by dogs, said something needs to be done about dangerous dogs in the county.

After the snarl in council chambers, council members decided to appoint a committee of residents to work on a new proposal with the council’s animal control committee – Councilmen Wayne Kersey, Wesley Grier and Jack Estridge. The residents included dog owners, professional dog trainers and those who have been victims of dog attacks.

The new ordinance gives the Lancaster County Animal Control director the authority to determine if a dog is dangerous, and these dogs must be registered with Animal Control.

If the dog’s owner agrees with the determination, he or she must muzzle and keep the dog on a leash when out in public.

When the dog is unattended, it must be kept in an escape-proof kennel of heavy-gauge wire with padlocked gates and a sign denoting a dangerous animal.

Owners that protest the dangerous designation may have their cases heard in magistrate’s court, County Administrator Steve Willis said.

Dangerous dogs will be identified by tattoo, a code number provided by Animal Control or by microchip, and they must wear a fluorescent collar.

The revamped ordinance gives the right to property owners to kill a dangerous animal if it chases or attacks humans, pets or livestock.

Although enacting a countywide leash law had been discussed, Willis said the committee ultimately decided against it. However, dogs and cats will be required to wear a collar with a rabies tag and an identification tag with their owner’s name, address and phone numbers on them.

If a dog or cat without both tags is picked up by Animal Control, the owner will have to show proof of ownership and rabies vaccination to get the animal back.

Hunting dogs in the field will be exempt from wearing the tags, Willis said.

The committee will meet on April 14 to make any other changes before third reading, which will be held at council’s April 28 meeting.

Kersey said he’s just begun going over the revamped ordinance, and is comfortable with taking the breed-specific wording out of it.

Kersey said having residents serve in the committee was invaluable, and allowed the council members to make a great amount of progress in just a month.

“They did a great job,” Kersey said. “They were very caring and very knowledgeable.”

County 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 senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or 283-1151