It was a bit of a “ruff” meeting of the Frederick County Council on Tuesday, as Frederick County Division of Animal Control representatives and a Democratic councilman introduced possible changes to the county’s animal welfare law.

They say this would reduce the workload for Animal Control and improve the health and safety of pets.

Frederick County Councilman Jerry Donald, who made the suggestions, said that last year, Animal Control officers responded to nearly 1,000 calls a month.

He hasn’t introduced local legislation, but said in an interview on Tuesday he intends to do so soon. Donald said he wanted feedback from council members before drafting a bill.

Donald brought to council members on Tuesday three initial proposals. One is that pets be leashed at all time off their owner’s property, or they would be considered “at large,” or roaming.

Current county code defines an animal “at large” when it’s off an owner’s property, and not under the watch of someone who could physically restrain it. It does not require a leash.

Donald also suggested reducing the length of time a dog can be tethered, from 10 hours consecutively in a 24-hour period to four hours.

He offered possible changes to the county’s pet licensing requirements, too.

Pets older than 4 months must be vaccinated against rabies, then licensed with Animal Control.

A pet that is spayed or neutered costs $7.50 a year to license, and an unaltered animal costs $15.

A household would pay a maximum of $40 for licenses.

Donald and Animal Control representatives proposed that if owners had not yet spayed or neutered their animals, they not be allowed to use this blanket $40 option.

This would incentivize county residents to spay or neuter their animals, reduce intake to the local shelter run by Animal Control and its operating costs, said Sgt. Dave Luckenbaugh, a county Animal Control officer.

Luckenbaugh said loose animals could run into people, vehicles and wildlife. Requiring that they be leashed would reduce these risks and reduce service calls for officers, he said.

Possible changes to the tethering requirement could benefit the health of the dogs, who are more often exposed to the elements and parasites, Luckenbaugh said. This would encourage families to bring their dogs inside for more socialization and possibly reduce dog bites, he said.

Councilman Billy Shreve (R) was the most skeptical, calling for more data from Animal Control before he made any decisions.

He asked whether some of the proposals, such as the reduction from 10- to four-hour tethering, had been proved effective through data.

Shreve said most people don’t know about the requirement to license their pet. Luckenbaugh agreed.

Linda Shea, director of the Frederick County Division of Animal Control, said license fees don’t generate enough revenue for the department, which has tried to inform people of the requirement twice since 2005 — once on county tax notices, the other through postcards that proved not to be cost-effective.

Councilman Tony Chmelik (R) questioned whether the county could improve how it handles licensing and the process could be “cleaned up” in some way.

Owners can license their pets at the county shelter on Rosemont Avenue, through some veterinarians, or mail in an application.

Follow Jeremy Bauer-Wolf on Twitter: @jbeowulf.

(4) comments

stefcfi

What about temperature limits? Some people leave pets out in pens (esp dogs) in sub freezing weather thinking their little pod-shelter will be sufficient. It is NOT.
DC just went through this with the pit bull story.

Nicki

Perhaps Shreve could collect the data by being tethered outside for four hours then ten hours. I bet even he would notice the difference.

DickD

The article states "pets", can we assume this includes all pets, including cats? We have a neighbor that allows their cat to roam and kill birds, is their a penalty for that?

des21

There should be Dick. Pet peeve of mine is household cats who are pampered, well cared for, who are essentially super-predators of wildlife whose life is hard enough! (I'm a bird fan.)

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, insights and experiences, not personal attacks. Ad hominen criticisms are not allowed. Focus on ideas instead.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
No trolls. Off-topic comments and comments that bait others are not allowed.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
Say it once. No repeat or repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.