New proposed changes to vicious dog ordinance in Berkeley County

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Berkeley County Council members proposed new revisions to its vicious dog ordinance, which would allow magistrate courts to designate a dog as vicious instead of council members.

Legal director for Berkeley County, Norwood Bentley, said although these changes were brought on in order to comply with changes made in West Virginia state law, thoughts of a 2-year old boy who was killed in Berkeley County last year after being bit by a dog brought the reality of the legislation close to home.

“The fear that is in all of our hearts is that another child or someone elderly is going to be attacked, and we need to do something about it,” Bentley said.

Previously, Animal Control in Berkeley County handled vicious dog cases, then it was passed on to a Nuisance Appeal Board, after that, Berkeley County Council members ruled on the case.

Under the proposed changes, the case will start with Animal Control in Berkeley County and end in magistrate court.

Legislative chair person for Animal Advocates in West Virginia, Cheryl Durst, said these changes protect people and their pets.

“There’s always two sides to every story and we want to be fair. We don’t want animals to be euthanized that shouldn’t be, so it’s a very fair ordinance,” Durst said.

Bentley said council members had to propose this update because it was in violation of West Virginia state law, which ruled that only a magistrate court or circuit court  could designate a dog as vicious.

“If there is probable cause, then there will be a notification of summons bringing the owner of the dog before the magistrate court,” Bentley said.

Durst said it is only fair that dogs get due process before they could be euthanized.

“A lot of people have dogs that are wonderful with their families and yet are very protective and might nip or bite someone trying to protect their family,” Durst said.

Before these changes can be approved, there will be two public hearings on the proposed ordinance.

The hearings will take place on April 14 at 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

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