Ordinance passed to control problem dogs

By Heather Michon

Sandra Lindner Turner began to cry describing what happened when she woke up on Memorial Day morning to the sounds of barking dogs in her yard.

Grabbing a flashlight, she stepped outside to see that a neighbor’s two pit bulls had tunneled under her fence. 

Then she saw them attack and kill her goose.

“Understand, I’m a hobby farmer,” she said. “These are my pets.”

After the dogs ran off, she found they had attacked and killed her three ducks. All three of her sheep sustained multiple bites, some of them severe.

Turner said Fluvanna County deputies were “wonderful” in the aftermath of the attack, but they were limited in what they could do about the dogs that had become a known problem for the neighborhood.

Thanks to a new ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 20), local law enforcement may have the tools that they need to ensure problem dogs don’t go on to become a menace to their community.

The ordinance will apply to dogs running at large anywhere in the county.

County Attorney Daniel Whitten said this is not a “leash law,” where dogs would have to be on a lead whenever they are outside. Instead, “the dog has to be under the control of the owner at all times.”

“We’re trying to find a balance for all residents in our community,” he said.

Within Lake Monticello, owners of dogs running at large can be fined up to $100 for a first offense. In the rest of the county, owners will receive warnings up to three times in two years before they are fined. Again, the civil penalty will be set at up to $100 for the first offense.

For dogs found running in packs of two or more, owners can be fined on the first offense. Owners might also have to pay impoundment fees if their dogs are running loose and cannot immediately be returned to the owners.  

Hunting dogs and farm dogs are excluded from the ordinance.

Supervisor Patricia Eager (Palmyra) has been a farmer for many years and recounted an incident where free-roaming dogs killed several sheep by running them into a pond and drowning them. “So I understand what you went through,” she told Turner.

Eager made the motion to approve the ordinance, which passed on a vote of 5-0.

Road signs

Sycamore Square’s Homeowners Association asked for two “Watch For Children” signs to be placed in critical areas of their community, a request that sparked a small debate over the role of government activity in everyday life.

Under new VDOT rules, “Watch for Children” signs now have to be purchased by a locality at a cost of $850 per sign.

The county allocates funding for signs each year and rarely exceeds its annual budget. The $1,700 needed for the signs is available.

But Supervisor Chris Fairchild (Cunningham) wondered if buying and paying for these signs was a reasonable use of taxpayer dollars.

He said he had looked up pricing for commercially available “Watch for Children” signs and found the average cost was about $52.

“I don’t get why we’re talking about spending $850 where VDOT doesn’t recognize a need, where the citizens could do it themselves for a little more than a hundred bucks,” he said. “I’m just not sure why this request came before us.”

Supervisor Tony O’Brien countered that this was only the second such request in 12 years and that there was adequate money already in the budget to cover it.

The motions to approve the signs both failed on a vote of 3-2, with Fairchild and Eager voting ‘no.’

Zoom interrupted

During the discussion on signs, the county’s Zoom meeting was infiltrated by a group of unknown individuals who began broadcasting graphic images and sounds on the live video feed.

Assistant County Administrator Kelly Harris quickly cut the feed, and the meeting went on uninterrupted. However, the inappropriate images shown meant that the video could not be uploaded to YouTube for later viewing. An audio recording of the meeting is available on the county’s website.

“Audio will always be available,” said Harris, “and we are currently assessing how we go forward with Zoom.”

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