County To Review Current Dog Law Amid Concerns

SALISBURY – Wicomico County will reconsider its law regarding dogs as a current case involving two nuisance dogs has the officials questioning if the code is stringent enough.
At the last Wicomico County legislative meeting on Nov. 5, Wicomico residents Linda Bass and Heather Phiefer, who live in the area of Old Mill Branch Road, came before the County Council with ongoing complaints over two dogs in their neighborhood who they believe to be a safety hazard.
Bass had expressed her frustration over two dogs belonging to the same family that are not chained and run freely around the neighborhood. One of the dogs bit her husband but was not deemed dangerous because according to county code it did not break the skin.
Pfeiffer expressed similar concerns over the dogs, which she believed are potentially dangerous and asked the council for help.
Deputy County Attorney Maureen Lanigan reported on Jan. 25, 2012 animal control was contacted about one of the dogs running at large. The owner was issued a warning.
On March 8, 2012, animal control received a second complaint of one of the dogs running at large. Animal Control witnessed the dog running at large and issued a $100 citation to the owner. The citation was immediately paid upon being served.
On Oct. 23, 2013, Animal Control was called for two dogs at large. A $500 citation was issued for the second offense and a $100 citation for the first offense. The citations were not paid and a seven-day notification letter was sent to the dog owner from the County Attorney’s Office.
At this point, if the dogs are caught at large, they can be impounded and the owner will have to pay to have them released. If Animal Control cannot catch them, they cannot be impounded.
“I remember some kind of discussion over three strikes you’re out,” Council President Matt Holloway said. “Is there some type of legal recourse for that?”
Lanigan responded a $500 citation is the highest step within county code.
“The dog is treated like property, so to confiscate a dog it would have to go to a hearing,” she said.
Councilman Joe Holloway recognized the laws on the books are not working, saying, “It looks like to me with this particular situation somebody is going to get hurt.”
Councilwoman Sheree Sample-Hughes agreed the code regarding dog behavior needs to become more severe.
“We have had cases in the county before of citizens being mauled by dogs and it has continued to be a minimal fine situation and I don’t foresee it getting any better,” she said.
The council agreed to schedule a discussion with Animal Control, the Health Department and Sheriff’s Office.