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Carroll dog owners won't roll over

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — A proposed trespassing ordinance for four-legged friends and a state dog tag reporting requirement has ruffled the fur of some animal owners in Carroll County.

Several say they will attend Monday's Carroll Board of Supervisors meeting to make their feelings known.

Concerned pet owners learned of the proposed ordinance to deal with nuisance dogs about the same time they received notifications regarding necessary dog tag purchases from the county treasurer.

The two things hitting at nearly the same time has raised questions among dog owners and hunters, such as Bruce Cruise.

Carroll County officials have been trying to strike a balance between dog owners who allow their pets to run loose — a hallmark of rural life — and property owners who find the dogs bothersome or threatening.

At their November meeting, the Carroll supervisors heard an idea from County Attorney Jim Cornwell to apply a trespassing ordinance to dogs.

The ordinance would allow for the animal control officer to take action after receiving a complaint from a property owner about a nuisance dog. County officials during the discussion stressed that the proposal wasn't a leash law, nor would trespassing dogs be pursued unless a citizen filed a complaint.

The inspiration for this proposal came from a similar ordinance in Craig County, dealing with buffalo that wandered off their owner's property, Cornwell said.

The supervisors tabled the ordinance to give Cornwell time to make a few changes to it.

Assistant County Administrator Nikki Shank repeated those ideas when contacted by The Gazette. "It's a complaint-driven ordinance, so if your dogs aren't bothering anyone, it won't affect you.”

She doesn't see the ordinance coming into play every time a dog leaves its own property, but only in those few cases where property owners are having trouble enjoying their own rights because of a troublesome dog.

The proposal is expected to resurface at December's county board meeting Monday, which starts at 4 p.m., and Cruise indicated that he and other dog owners will be in attendance.

Cruise was among those who received a notice in the mail from the Carroll County Treasurer's Office, which said he needed to buy 2010 dog tags for three animals he sought treatment for at a veterinarian's office within the last year.

This brought a few questions to mind for him. What if he was just taking the dogs to the clinic to help out a friend?

Does he have to produce proof if he sells a dog?

What gives the county the right to get information from a vet in the first place?

This actually derives from a state law, Shank answered, referring to code section 3.2-6529.

"Each veterinarian who vaccinates a dog against rabies or directs a veterinary technician in his employ to vaccinate a dog against rabies shall provide the owner a copy of the rabies vaccination certificate," the law says. "The veterinarian shall forward within 45 days a copy of the rabies vaccination certificate or the relevant information contained in such certificate to the treasurer of the locality where the vaccination occurs."

It goes on to require that the vet's office provide a variety of information, including the name and address of the owner; age, color, breed of animal, whether the animal is spayed or neutered and the expiration date of the shot.

Then, the responsibility of applying for a dog license falls to the owner, the law says. Veterinarians that do not turn in this information can be subject a civil penalty of $10 for each dog involved.

This law, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2008, is a way for the state to ensure that dog owners get their licenses, Shank said.

This is the second year that localities have sent out these notices, Carroll Treasurer Bonita Williams said.

Dog owners in the county feel upset about this requirement, as well, Cruise said. He expects to raise the topic during citizen's time at Monday's meeting.