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.
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