Canine not allowed to run free in county

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Dogs are no longer allowed to roam on their owner’s property in the unincorporated area of ​​Garland County, under ordinance passed by the Garland County Quorum Court last week.

The regulation was adopted unanimously and included an emergency clause that went into effect immediately.

The County Code’s Animal Chapter allowed dogs not classified as a High Risk Breed and wearing current labels issued by a licensed veterinarian practicing in Garland County to venture unrestrained from their owner’s property. The ordinance, passed earlier this week, no longer allows dogs to run at large.

“Dogs that run at large are considered stray,” says the regulation. “Stray dogs detained under the supervision of this Ordinance will be held in an approved facility. If the stray dog ​​is not claimed within five days, the facility shall have the right to put the dog up for adoption or euthanasia. “”

The regulation exempts dogs that actively assist their owners or caretakers in legitimate hunting activities, dogs that participate in exhibitions or competitions that take place on the designated land, dogs that are housed or fenced in on private property, and dogs that are used by law enforcement agencies or used by people with disabilities for official purposes.

Officials said the Hot Springs City Animal Services Department, which the county hires to enforce its animal laws, will not patrol dogs at large. The enforcement is driven by complaints.

“If your dog were tagged, he could run anywhere he wanted,” said Justice of the Peace Larry Raney, R District 13, chairman of the Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee, which forwarded the ordinance to the full quorum. “That was inconsistent with what was intended, and it was causing trouble for our animal control department and the courts.”

The regulation also decoupled annoying dogs from vicious dogs. The County Code made no distinction between the two, which requires owners of dogs that a court has found to be bothersome to take the same precautions as owners of vicious dogs. This includes paying a non-refundable fee of $ 1,000 to the county or providing evidence of insurance with $ 100,000 liability insurance for the dog.

The city’s animal services department told JPs that non-threatening dogs that were judged to be bothersome by the courts would be treated the same as vicious dogs, according to county regulations. Annoying and / or vicious dogs could not leave their owner’s property without a snout and restraint with a minimum tensile strength of 300 pounds and a maximum length of 3 feet.

These requirements only apply to vicious dogs under the regulation that was passed earlier this week.

“Previous ordinances required that you treat a pesky dog ​​like it was a vicious dog,” Raney said. “The courts and the animal control department brought this fact to our attention. Their hands were tied and they couldn’t treat these animals any differently than a vicious dog. That’s not fair. The whole idea was to rewrite it in a way that separates them. “

The regulation also provided separate penalties for bothersome and vicious dogs. Violation of the malicious provision will continue to be a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $ 2,500 and a prison term of up to one year. A harassment rule violation is a Class C offense punishable by a fine of up to $ 500 and a prison term of up to 30 days.

“The courts have flexibility,” said Raney. “If you are a first-time offender, they will most likely waive the charges and tell you to get control of your dog. They will impose a higher fine on repeat offenders. I think that’s good because it exists.” Courts have a lot of flexibility to weigh and make judgments based on the facts. “

The ordinance classifies a pesky dog ​​as a dog that fouls, pollutes, or feces, causes unsanitary, dangerous, or offensive conditions, causes disruption from excessive barking or noise, and people in the city on private property other than the owner or public walks and recreational areas disturbs The public right of way chases vehicles or grazes on private or public property.

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