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Urbanna ready to consider leash law, again

Roaming dogs have become a nuisance to some Urbanna residents. Responsible dog owners maintain control with a leash, which protects the pet and the property owner. Above, Kate Mossman of Urbanna walks Brodie, a golden retriever, and Martini, his shorter sidekick. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)
by Tom Chillemi

Dogs have always been free to roam in Urbanna, but those days appear numbered.

Nuisance dogs have motivated the Urbanna Town Council to consider requiring dogs to be under control of a person, either by leash or voice.

At the council work session on September 11, the three council members present and Mayor Beatrice Taylor directed town administrator Lewis Filling to draw up a proposed ordinance amendment to stop dogs from roaming. “We’ve had enough complaints,” said Taylor.

Under the town’s current dog law, owners are responsible for the behavior of their dogs. Prohibited behaviors include excessive barking, charging at persons in a frightening manner, biting, upsetting garbage cans, and “habitually” using property other than its own to relieve itself.

Enforcement is difficult and requires that a written complaint be made. Most citizens have been reluctant to complain.

The proposed law could make enforcement possible by a “deputy, animal control, or town administrator,” Filling told council.

The proposal would make it “unlawful for any dog to run or roam at large in town,” said Filling. No complaint would be necessary to impound the roaming dog.

The proposed ordinance would be published in the Southside Sentinel once a date is set for a public hearing, which could be in October.

A town leash law has been proposed several times in the past, but never adopted due to public opposition.

Filling said the SPCA favors controlling dogs and not allowing them to run free where their welfare and safety are put in jeopardy.

Council member Joanie Ward said, “I don’t care if it’s a dachshund or a Great Dane, you don’t let them run at will.” Ward added that she loves dogs.

Rich Donoff said the town could be liable if it does not enforce the current dog ordinance. Currently, dogs can run free in Urbanna if they wear a collar and county tag. However, if a dog is a nuisance, it can be picked up and the owner fined.

Council member Bill Thrift said most dogs are walked by a person, but agreed to consider a proposed ordinance.

Ward said that even leashed dogs “leave presents” in her front yard. “This is not an animal problem, it’s a people problem,” she said.

Town resident John Vaughan added that Waterman’s Park has become a popular place for dogs to leave droppings.

Dogs that come into town could be picked up and held until retrieved by their owners. Filling said that in late August he counted five dogs running loose—four of them were from outside town limits.

Council’s next meeting is Monday, September 21, at 7 p.m.

posted 09.16.2009

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