Animal abuse laws OK’d, despite concerns

WELLSBURG — On Tuesday, the Brooke County Commission approved two ordinances aimed at deterring the mistreatment of animals, but some residents say one is flawed.

One ordinance states residents using tethers to restrain their pets must attach them to a non-choke harness or collar made of leather, nylon or a similar material instead of directly to their necks.

It also states pets shouldn’t be tethered outside in extreme heat or cold, thunderstorms, tornadoes or floods and should be provided adequate shelter from inclement weather, wind and the direct rays of the sun.

The shelter also should be moisture- and windproof, with moisture-proof flooring at least 2 inches from the ground with bedding that will retain body heat.

The ordinance is to be enforced in unincorporated areas of the county by the county’s dog warden and sheriff’s deputies, who are to give those in violation 72 hours to correct the situation.

It states those convicted of a second or other subsequent offense will face a fine of $300 to $2,000. An animal found to be abused is to be transferred from the owner to the county’s animal shelter, with the owner financially responsible for its care.

In the event they are unable to pay, the animal is to become the shelter’s property.

But Cindy Dobbs and other residents have pushed for more specifics, saying the current ordinance could be challenged easily.

Dobbs noted she and others proposed an ordinance that set a limit for the tether’s length and weight based on the dog’s own length and weight and prohibited animals from being tethered for more than 9 hours of a 24-hour period.

The proposal also established temperatures at or above 85 degrees as extreme heat and at or below 35 degrees as extreme cold.

Dobbs said the group would have accepted the issue of a severe weather advisory as an alternative in determining whether pets are exposed to extreme conditions.

“We were totally negotiable on everything,” she said, adding, “There just needs to be guidelines. It’s very frustrating. We’re going to keep pushing for revisions.”

County Commissioner A.J. Thomas said because dogs vary greatly in type and size, the discretion of the investigating officer is key to its enforcement. He said the ordinance can be amended if needed.

He said vital to its success is the cooperation of residents in reporting suspected violations.

But Dobbs and others expressed satisfaction with the commission’s adoption of an ordinance for the care of horses.

It states horses cannot be tethered for more than two hours at a time and should be in halters loose enough to allow chewing and prevent choking or suffocation, as well as setting specific stall sizes based on a horse’s size.

Drafted with input from a veterinarian, it also outlines conditions for other aspects of their daily care, including feeding and transport in vehicles.

Violators of the ordinance face nearly identical penalties as those for the tether ordinance.

Thomas said the ordinance needs to be more specific because its enforcers are likely to be less familiar with horses than other animals.

Brooke County Sheriff Larry Palmer said members of his department have undergone training in recognizing signs a horse has been neglected.

Palmer said he suggested the ordinance because years ago he encountered a situation in which two horses suffered because they were left stranded in heavy mud.

“Ultimately it (the ordinance) is to ensure these animals are protected from mistreatment,” he said.


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