Energetic dogs lead to research on pet laws

City leaders consider ordinance after tale of pair getting loose

April 02, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

The afternoon of March 8 in the Copperfields development of Taneytown was like a scene out of the movie "High Noon."

Residents scurried into their houses for safety and looked out their windows with trepidation. A woman walking with her baby was warned to return home, and quickly.

But it was not an outlaw gang come to town: It was a pair of energetic Rottweilers that had knocked down their wooden fence while the owners were away.

They wandered from yard to yard, causing anxiety for neighbors who dreaded walking past the large, noisy dogs even when they were behind a fence.

"All of a sudden, in my back yard, 30, 40 feet from my deck, are these two dogs who could kill me," said Councilman Brian Etzler, who lives in the neighborhood where the dogs got loose.

That night at a City Council meeting, Etzler relayed the story to fellow council members and the mayor, recommending they consider proposing a law to require that certain breeds of dogs have a secondary restraint, such as a chain, in case a fence gives way or a gate is left open.

"I'm not against the person's right to own the dogs, but I am against the right for them to run freely," Etzler said.

Residents of Copperfield called police. The owner was not home, but a police officer knew the owners and the dogs and went to the neighborhood until one owner returned. In the meantime, a neighbor had lured the dogs into his fenced yard until the owners could claim them.

Taneytown has no ordinances on pets, Mayor W. Robert Flickinger said. Other than the county's animal control laws, "we have nothing on the books," he said.

Flickinger said he has heard of some towns' banning certain breeds.

"It's a national problem that's tough to address," said City Manager Chip Boyles, who is looking into the issue for the council.

He said that shortly after Etzler brought up the issue, he saw an item about dog ordinances in a newsletter from a company that publishes city codes.

"It was so coincidental" that it caught his attention, Boyles said.

He contacted the service, which will scan its database for ordinances that address dog restraints based on size or breed.

"If some of these ordinances have been tried in court and upheld, that would be worth looking at," Boyles said.

Some ordinances go beyond typical leash laws by requiring additional registration, secondary restraints or fluorescent tags for certain breeds and by prohibiting some breeds, the newsletter reported.

Police Chief Melvin Diggs said dogs seem to be no more of a problem in Taneytown than in other cities and towns. Most residents keep their dogs restrained, he said, and he gets more calls about groundhogs than dogs.

The Rottweiler incident may have scared residents, but Diggs said his officers described the dogs as "not mean," and the owner took them home that night. There have been no reports of the dogs escaping since then, he said.

"I can understand [people] see two big Rottweilers running around and growling, I can understand they would be scared," Diggs said.

Pub Date: 4/02/99

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