COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE
Nuisance Dog Update
Nuisance Dog Update
Tucker, Foley, Davis, Allshouse, Bowman
LEGAL REVIEW: Yes
July 7, 2004
ACTION: INFORMATION: X
The Board of Supervisors recently requested information regarding nuisance dog regulations. According to Sharon Tate, Animal Control Officer for Albemarle County, Animal Control Officers often respond to calls regarding dogs that are chasing bicycles, attacking other animals, or trespassing on private property. Most of these problematic dog encounters occur in the rural areas of the County, though the problem exists in the development areas as well.
The County currently has a County–wide dangerous and vicious dog ordinance, and has running at large ordinances for specific neighborhoods (Sec. 4-400 and Sec. 4-213). However, until a bite occurs, the dog cannot be classified as dangerous or vicious and if the area of the County does not have a Dogs Running at Large ordinance, there is little Animal Controls officers can do to help alleviate nuisance dog-related problems. As Albemarle County grows, the management of uncontrollable dogs could become a growing concern for Albemarle County residents.
Enhance the Quality of Life for all Albemarle County Citizens.
Animal Control statistics show that dog incidents in the County, especially regarding aggression are on the rise. Notably, animal control projects there could be 150-200 dog bites in 2004 (more than 3 times recent years). Animal Control states that most dogs who display initial aggressive behavior will repeat if not escalate their actions. 2004 Statistics collected by Animal Control Officers are as follows:
Documented Animal Related Incidents, 2004 (January-Present):
Dog incidents of aggression involving person (other than pet owner): 62 (28 unprovoked, 34 provoked)
Total dog bites involving owners and other individuals: 76
Persons bitten while riding bicycle on rural highway: 5
Persons bitten while pedestrian on rural highway: 9
Dogs attacking other dog or companion pet: 15
Average number of dogs picked up per year: 600, 40% of which were dogs trespassing on another’s property
Other localities’ dog ordinances were examined for comparison (4 counties and 5 cities). Every locality examined had a dangerous and vicious dog ordinance. Several localities, such as Fairfax and Henrico, which have large densely populated and urban areas, have running at large ordinances for the entire jurisdiction. Others, such as Bedford use the neighborhood by neighborhood approach that Albemarle utilizes. Staff noted that several cities have dog ordinances which regulated “nuisances” such as excessive barking or chasing vehicles or bicycles, and attacking other domestic animals.
At this time, the state only authorizes two ways for counties to regulate aggressive nuisance dogs, either through 1) dangerous and vicious dog ordinances (Va. Code 3.1-796.93:1) or 2) running at large ordinances (Va. Code 3.1-796.93). Staff’s research has determined that creating an ordinance specifically for “nuisance dogs” is not an option for Virginia counties by state law. One option that may help to address this issue is to create a countywide Dogs Running at Large Ordinance. However, this would strain County enforcement resources and staff does not believe overall density in the county would justify a countywide ordinance nor that there is widespread community support for such an all encompassing ordinance at this time.
The County currently does not have state authority to create an ordinance specifically to regulate nuisance dogs. Staff does not recommend the implementation of a County-wide Dogs Running at Large Ordinance at this time. Staff recommends that the County continues to monitor this situation, encourage dog owners to responsibly manage their pets, and re-assess this issue at a later time.
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