Animal Ordinance Changes Proposed In Wicomico

SALISBURY – Members of a newly formed animal committee presented Wicomico County officials with proposed changes to the county’s animal ordinance this week.

Back in March, the council identified shortcomings in the county’s animal ordinance and expressed an interest in creating a committee that would focus on animal rights.

In years past, the county established a Dog Ordinance Review Committee after a dog mauled and injured a young man in Willards. Committee members at the time were tasked with providing recourse and rules that would protect residents from further dog attacks.

However, when 300 neglected dogs were found on a farm in Wicomico County last year, the council identified the need to address animal rights. To that end, the Animal Ordinance Committee was formed.

In an open work session of the Wicomico County Council Tuesday, committee chair Aaron Balsamo, executive director of the Wicomico County Humane Society, told the council the group focused efforts on identifying and improving language found within the ordinance.

“Some of the proposed changes that we’ve come to thus far are pretty straight forward,” he said. “Some are a little bit more in-depth.”

While some changes simply add words and clarify definitions, Balsamo said others address larger issues.

“There are some bigger changes that we have, such as unsafe weather conditions, the actual structure of a dog house, tethering laws, kennel licenses, among other things,” he said.

Balsamo said one change would allow for a Community Cat Program that traps, vaccinates, neuters or spays, and releases feral cats.

He explained that the shelter has already taken in 740 cats in 2017, and said the program could lower the number of feral cats in Wicomico.

“It’s proven to be effective,” he said.

Councilman Joe Holloway asked who would trap the cats.

Balsamo replied that several groups have asked to participate in the program, but added that the county could receive grant money for the program.

Council President John Cannon thanked Balsamo for spearheading the effort to review the county’s ordinance.

“We appreciate you taking the initiative,” he said.

Balsamo replied that the opportunity would give the county a chance to improve some of its laws.

“I just wanted to thank the council for the opportunity … some of our laws are very antiquated and they could use some modernization,” he said.

The council agreed to review the proposed changes and send those suggested revisions to counsel before meeting with the committee again.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.