Dog laws strengthened in Virginia county

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Amid publicity that arose from deaths and injuries due to dog attacks in the region, the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to impose tougher penalties on dog owners who let their dogs run free. After a public hearing Tuesday evening, the board voted for a new animal control ordinance. Now dog owners who are repeat offenders face a misdemeanor crime of $2,500 or up to a year in jail.

Dogs that repeatedly chase cars and run free, or otherwise trespass on property, could be euthanized if so ordered by a judge. A dog that is "roaming, running or self-hunting off the property or premises of its owner or custodian and not under the immediate control of the owner or custodian or his agent," meets the county's legal definition of a dog running at large.

The mauling death of an elderly woman by 3 Pit Bulls in her front yard sparked a public debate on animal control. At the hearing, State Senator Edward Houke said he would raise dog law issues in the January meeting of the Virginia General Assembly. According to The Free Lance Star, Houke said, "It's pretty obvious to me that the state law needs to be changed, but saying that and it happening, is two completely different phenomena. If there's one thing you learn quickly it's that you don't bring dog bills to the Virginia General Assembly."

The Sullivan daughters, who lost their mother in the mauling attack, circulated petitions in the county and also attended the hearing. Board chairman Robert Hagan noted the Sullivan family presence and thanked them for their efforts to prevent more tragedies.


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