Essex County supervisors weigh leash law following dog attack at alpaca farm
Essex County is considering tightening the leash on an existing ordinance that concerns free-roaming dogs.
At the forefront of the leash law issue is Alpaca farmer Wesley Gauvin, who lost 13 of his 15 Alpacas in a dog attack last month.
At the forefront of the issue is Alpaca farmer Wesley Gauvin, who lost 13 of his 15 Alpacas in a dog attack last month. During the Oct. 9 board of supervisors meeting, he received $5,200 in compensation for his killed livestock. Gauvin suggested a “running at large” ordinance to the board of supervisors that proposed lenient restrictions on pets than a leash law, but stressed greater penalties for owners whose pets went beyond the proposed limits.
“Personally I would support a leash law but I don’t think it’s realistic for a rural county,” Gauvin explained. “A dog can be on a 100-acre track, but we have to have rules for what happens when the dogs come off that land.”
Gauvin added: “We also have a proposition for criminal accountability so the county doesn’t have to pay $5200 for losses, so that criminal charges can be filed with criminal restitution, which is easier to get than civil restitution.”
Central District Supervisor Edwin “Bud” Smith suggested that the board add teeth to an existing ordinance in Tappahannock that would include the entire county.
“I am not in any matter or at any time opposed to vote for a leash law in this county,” Smith emphasized. “I’ve studied our ordinance, and it seems to be a good ordinance, but we may need to strengthen it.”
Interim County Administrator Bill Pennell recommended to the board that they table discussion or amending or strengthening the ordinance until the Nov. 13 meeting. Pennell stressed that he wanted to give the board up-to-date information on what state code will allow the board to do in regards to restraining pets in the county.
“The Commonwealth has established in its statutes certain things you [the Board of Supervisors] can and can’t do,” Pennell noted. “If you give me a month to know more about this particular issue, I would appreciate that.”
Concerns over threatening dogs have embroiled Essex County for over a year. Greater Tappahannock Supervisor and Chairman E. Stanley Langford noted that the board discussed the matter in length last year and stressed a need for a solution so “we’re not a year from now in the same situation.” Pennell pointed out that the issue with controlling dogs has been a “hot thing” in the state for years.
Citizens continued to speak out during the Oct. 9 meeting’s public input session against the effectiveness of the county in addressing aggressive dogs.
Dunnsville local Rick Parsley, who took part in last year’s meeting in which the County discussed and tabled a leash law, said that they have experienced problems since then.
“We’ve had a child bitten this year,” Parsley said. “The dog that started the issues that happened in Dunnsville spends most of his time on weekends in my front yard, not on his owner’s property. I feel like our hands are tied as landowners down there.”
To the board, Parsley continued: “I know you only have one [animal control officer] to come out, but if there were laws in the books and fines implemented on dogs that were picked up, at least it would make people stop not taking care of their animals.”
Parsley also suggested that the county make an ordinance that affects different areas of the county in different ways.
Parsley said of Hanover County: “Certain areas of some of the county have different laws than other areas of the county, depending on population in that area.”
Sunnyside Road resident Andrea Sydnor said that the board of supervisors did not understand the rest of the county’s frustrations because of the board’s location.
“You live in [Tappahannock],” Sydnor told the board. “You have a leash law. You don’t have to put up with this.”
Sydnor, an animal lover, said that the lawbooks need to place greater emphasis on negligent owners who let their pets roam free and cause incidents.
“If you have any kind of animal, you have to be responsible,” Sydnor stated. “If people won’t do the right thing and be responsible pet owners, then there’s going to have to be something on the books that helps the ones of us that are doing the right things.”