Animal Control Ordinance Approved Without Culver’s Support

SALISBURY – A new animal ordinance became law in Wicomico County last week, but without the approval of the county executive.

After months of research and back-and-forth discussion, the Wicomico County Council last month approved a new animal control ordinance that would better promote the safety and welfare of domestic animals and make it easier for animal control officers to interpret and enforce the laws.

At last week’s county council meeting, however, Council Administrator Laura Hurley said County Executive Bob Culver did not approve the bill.

“The county executive sent a letter stating that he is not approving legislative bill 2018-09 … and he provided his reasons why, so the letter was originally thought to be an executive veto,” she said.

Hurley said procedures for an executive veto were placed on last week’s agenda, but were since removed after it was learned that the executive would not be vetoing the legislative bill.

“Since the county executive is not vetoing the bill nor approving the bill, per charter section 411-C no council action is required,” she said.

In a letter sent to the county council earlier this month, Culver said he had “various concerns” regarding language in the new ordinance. He highlighted examples of inconsistent definitions and monetary fines and wording that “adds unnecessary bureaucracy.”

“This legislation contains jumbled language,” he said. “Some of the state law provisions that are incorporated have language that is not consistent with other county provisions, is archaic, or simply doesn’t make any sense.”

Culver also took issue with portions of the ordinance that addressed appeals procedures and dangerous and potentially dangerous animals. He said the two sections “favor the dogs rather than human life.”

“Section 133-11.C(4) is the most disturbing part of the revision,” he said. “For example, a dog that is touched when it is eating, drinking, playing, barking, sick, or injured can bite, wound, or kill a person and still not be declared dangerous or potentially dangerous as long as the bite was not a ‘sustained attack.’ The term ‘sustained attack’ isn’t clearly defined.”

Culver praised the workgroup tasked with drafting the ordinance for added necessary improvements to the code, but said little was done to involve members of the public.

“The workgroup should be commended for their efforts in drafting many of these changes, however the fact that I don’t recall any forums in the various county communities to have the public informed regarding what was being considered,” he said. “This limits citizens county-wide to voice their points of view.”

Culver concluded he would not approve the legislative bill.

“Therefore, I want to go on record that I will not approve this bill in hope that you might consider some of these concerns,” he said.

Hurley told the council last week that since no action is required, the bill would become law.

“The legislative bill will become law today,” she said, “and will go into effect on Jan. 19, 2019.”

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.