Bath County Considering New Dog Ordinance
Warm Springs, VA – Bath County is considering adoption of an ordinance that will target dogs that roam or show aggression. The proposed Running At Large ordinance came about because of complaints from citizens who were intimidated by dogs while in a public area. Robbie Chestnut is Bath County’s Animal Control Officer and he served on the committee that developed the ordinance.
“The state has the Virginia Animal Comprehensive Laws and there is a section in there that has to do with dangerous dogs” says Chestnut. “But in order to be deemed a dangerous dog, it has to cause injury to a person or another companion animal off of its property. So in order to do something, I don’t want to have to wait until someone is injured. If it stops just one incident, then it’s worked. That;s the way I look at it.”
Under the proposed ordinance a dog will be considered running at large when it’s off it’s owner’s property and running, roaming, being a traffic hazard, being a nuisance or showing aggression towards people or other animals. This effort is not Chestnut’s first attempt at getting an ordinance on the books.
“It had been tried before” he says. “I had tried personally myself since taking over the department in ’97 on two other occasions to get a running at large ordinance put in; it was voted down. The thing about a running at large ordinance is that it covers all property in the county – public [and] private. And when I say public, I mean the roads, the schools, the courthouse; anywhere the public can go during the time of business.”
Hunting dogs will not be considered running at large while a legal hunting or training season is in effect. Under the proposed ordinance all hunting dogs will be required to have some type of identification, such as a collar with it’s owner’s information, a tracking collar, a tattoo or microchip implant.
“The issue that came up before was about hunting dogs” says Chestnut. “The state code [says] as long as there is a training season or a hunting season, a hunting dog may go where it so may please whether it’s private property or whatever and the owner of that dog is able to retrieve that dog.”
Under the proposed ordinance a written complaint about a dog will have to be filed with Bath Animal Control or the Bath Sheriff’s Department. Then an investigation will be done. The person making the written complaint will need to apply to a magistrate for a summons or warrant to be issued and that person will also be required to testify in any court action. After an investigation is completed and if no evidence is found that would constitute charges being filed, the complaint will no longer be pursued.
“I’ve had some concerns about people saying well you’re just going to target certain places” says Chestnut. “Once my dog leaves my property, you’re going to snatch it up and I going to get a summons issued to me; that’s not the case. It’s something to protect the public when they’re trying to walk on a public road or at a public event or something like that and also to protect their animals from being harassed.”
Under the proposed running at large ordinance, a person found in violation of it will be guilty of a class 4 misdemeanor.
The Bath Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance at it’s monthly meeting on Tuesday March 8. The Board might adopt the ordinance at that meeting.