Owners of dogs found to be running at large in packs will be subject to a $100 fine per offense after a recently approved amendment to the James City County code was approved.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the amendment, which comes in response to complaints from residents about loose dogs in the Colonial Heritage community. Colonial Heritage residents have said they’ve had problems with dogs running amok for some time, and started to pressure state and local lawmakers in earnest to do something about it late last year.
“A lot of this stems from the issues we’ve had at Colonial Heritage and the citizens who stepped forward to take action and protect their dogs from dogs that were running at large,” Supervisor Sue Sadler said at the Tuesday meeting.
The amendment to the county code adds “dog found running at large in a pack” to the list of violations in the code’s animal law chapter. Each offense carries a $100 fine, which is the maximum penalty allowed under state law.
A dog is considered to be running at large in a pack if “it is running at large in the company of one or more other dogs that are also running at large.” An exception remains in the code for dogs that are participating in lawful hunting. The approved amendment doesn’t apply to a owner’s dogs if they’re on the owner’s property.
Nobody spoke during the public hearing that preceded the vote.
The prohibition comes as the end result of several meetings and discussions between county and state officials and Colonial Heritage residents.
Local and state officials had a few different ideas about legislative fixes to the problem. Ultimately, Senate Bill 1367, which allowed localities to develop ordinances to issue civil fines to the owners of dogs running at-large in packs, became law in March. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Thomas K. Norment, R-James City, paved the way for county code amendment.
The ability to hit dog owners with fines was one of several ideas pitched by supervisors to state lawmakers during a meeting in November last year. At a December meeting with Colonial Heritage residents, Del. Brenda Pogge discussed an emotional damages bill that didn’t become law.
In March, a mother and son were convicted of charges related to a dog attack that killed a Cavalier King Charles spaniel in October in Colonial Heritage.
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, email@example.com, @jajacobs_