Wicomico Closes In On New Animal Control Ordinance

SALISBURY – An animal control ordinance more than a year in the making will go before the county council for introduction.

In a work session on Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council concluded a months-long discussion on a new animal control ordinance.

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 Wicomico County farm in 2016, the council identified the need to address animal rights. To that end, the Animal Ordinance Review Committee was formed.

Since last March, the committee has worked closely with council staff to draft an ordinance that would better promote the safety and welfare of Wicomico County citizens and domestic animals. After more than a year of discussions and amendments, that ordinance will now be brought before the county council for introduction.

Aaron Balsamo, executive director of the Wicomico County Humane Society and chair of the county’s Animal Ordinance Review Committee, told the council this week he was happy with the proposed ordinance, but pointed out one definition in the ordinance relating to service animals would need further revision before its adoption.

“I didn’t know if we wanted to add that it’s in compliance with ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, because a lot of people tend to confuse what a service animal is,” he said. “A service animal and an emotional support animal and a therapy animal are completely different things and ADA does not apply whatsoever to therapy and emotional support animals and that’s a big confusion I get from a lot of people.”

Council attorney Robert Taylor said any amendments to the proposed ordinance could be made both before and after it is introduced in an upcoming council meeting.

“If we go forward with this without any further revision today and bring it on for first reading there will be opportunities to make further adjustments,” he said, “so this certainly isn’t the end of the line.”

Council President John Cannon asked Balsamo if committee members were pleased with the drafted ordinance.

“The committee did a lot of great work …,” he said. “Are there a lot of parts of this that have been changed a great degree where the committee might feel there’s a need to push back or make adjustments?”

Balsamo noted the committee initially questioned the ability to enforce the ordinance.

“I think we found a happy medium where animal control can take care of some of these complaints that are called in …,” he said. “It gives us control to look deeper into some of these issues, but at the same time we won’t be able to just run freely throughout the county and trample on people’s property rights.”

Balsamo noted that committee members were excited to see the ordinance adopted.

“I haven’t heard too many complaints other than waiting for a vote to happen on this, to be honest,” he said.

The council agreed to introduce the proposed animal control ordinance at a future county council meeting.

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.