Wicomico Comes To Terms On Revised Animal Control Law

SALISBURY – Officials in Wicomico County last week approved a new animal control ordinance after months of research and back-and-forth discussions.

Last week, the Wicomico County Council voted unanimously to enact a new animal control ordinance that is expected to better promote the safety and welfare of domestic animals and to make it easier for animal control officers to interpret and enforce the laws.

New provisions of the ordinance include measures to protect animals from extreme temperatures and inclement weather, tethering restrictions, impoundment and redemption provisions, practices for the disposal of dead animals and more.

Last March, the county council formed an Animal Ordinance Review Committee to draft a new ordinance that would promote the safety and welfare of domestic animals after 300 neglected dogs were found on a Wicomico County farm.

Since that time, the committee has worked with Wicomico County Humane Society leadership and council staff to create a lengthy ordinance that would achieve those goals, and in August the county council voted unanimously to introduce the ordinance.

“This bill superseded an earlier bill that was introduced earlier this year, but we couldn’t get it done in time,” said Council Attorney Bob Taylor.

Taylor noted that he and Council Administrator Laura Hurley spent a culmination of days meeting with committee members, concerned citizens and humane society leadership to draft a new ordinance. He said their research, in addition to new humane society leadership and additional amendments, further delayed the process.

“It’s an amalgam of all those things,” he said.

Before voting on last week’s resolution to approve the new animal control ordinance, the council also approved 12 amendments that outlined licensing and vaccination requirements, adoption requirements, the confinement and euthanization of animals, and a sheriff or animal control officer’s authority to enter private property, among other things.

Councilman Marc Kilmer, however, opposed the amendment that outlined law enforcement’s authority to enter private property, arguing that the provision was already referenced in state law.

“If they already have authority, I don’t know why we need to put in a second granting of authority …,” he said. “That would be my objection.”

Regardless, Kilmer and other council members last week praised the committee and council staff for working over a period of months to draft the new ordinance.

“It’s been a lot of work,” said Councilman Larry Dodd, “and everybody that worked on it and served on the committee should be commended.”

Council President John Cannon agreed.

“It’s taken a long time and it has been a lot of hard work,” he said. “We do appreciate the work of Laura and Bob, staff and the committee as a whole.”

Councilman Joe Holloway noted the evolution of the county’s animal control laws over the years and opportunities for the council to make any necessary changes in the future.

“This started back in 2007,” he said. “We had a young man mauled by a couple of dogs near Willards and we saw that we needed to strengthen our laws to protect people, and of course that moved to strengthening our laws to protect animals too.

“A lot of things we’ve put in here over the years has been changed a number of times, and I think in the future this law could be looked at again if there needed to be any changes made.”

The council voted 6-0, with Councilman John Hall absent, to approve the new animal control ordinance.

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.