After convictions in Colonial Heritage dog attacks, dogs continue to roam neighborhood, law to change

Staff writer

For more than two years, residents of Colonial Heritage have endured roaming dogs and dog attacks. On Friday, their saga to stop dog attacks came to a head when a James City County mother and son were convicted of charges stemming from an Oct. 12 dog attack that killed a Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

Seats in Williamsburg-James City County’s General District courtroom were packed with residents from the neighborhood, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney Nate Green.

The three and a half hour trial ended in the convictions of Aaron Christopher Ripley, 21, of James City County, and Sandra Jane Ripley, 57, of James City County, on dog law violations.

Aaron Ripley was convicted of four counts of dog at large and one count of possession of a dangerous dog that later killed a cat or dog, according to filings in Williamsburg-James City County General District Court. He was given a six month suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay the court $968 in fines and fees.

Sandra Jane Ripley, 57 of James City County, was convicted of three counts of dog at large and a dangerous dog violation, court records state. She was given a six month suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay the court $912 in fines and fees.

However, the convictions did not stop dogs from leaving Aaron Ripley’s property, according to James City County Police Department spokeswoman Stephanie Williams.

On Sunday, two dogs were found roaming Colonial Heritage yet again, Williams said.

Less than a week after the Ripley’s convictions, police served a summons on Ashley Houston, Williams said.

Houston is Aaron Ripley’s girlfriend and lives at his address, according to her Facebook.

Houston was charged with two counts of dog at large, Williams said. Houston said on Facebook that one of the dogs taken on Sunday was “Paris.” Aaron Ripley was convicted Friday for allowing Paris to run at large. He was previously convicted in 2017 for Paris running at large.

There is an ongoing investigation into the most recent incident of dogs running at large, Williams said. Additional charges could be filed.

Attempts to contact Aaron Ripley have failed.

Sandra and Aaron Ripley have been charged and convicted on 21 criminal or civil counts of dog law violations stemming from incidents as early as December 2015, according to online court records.

From an attack on alpacas at James City County Supervisor Michael Hipple’s home to the mauling of two pets, dog attacks in James City County have spurred state legislation.

On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam put his signature to State Sen. Majority Leader Tommy Norment’s S.B. 1367. Norment, a James City Republican, said he hoped the bill would allow for the General Assembly to begin to have a conversation about dangerous dogs.

The bill will allow localities such as James City County to craft their own ordinance to levy fines of as much as $100 per dog found running in a pack, not for hunting purposes.

Norment’s bill would make it more expensive for dog owners when their animals are found at large.

A bill put forward by James City County Republican Del. Brenda Pogge to allow victims of dog attacks to seek emotional distress damages died in committee.

However, residents of Colonial Heritage have indicated that the two bills would not be enough for them.

The dog safety committee in the neighborhood is now working to create a statewide consensus on dog laws, spokesman and Colonial Heritage resident Ralph Thomas said at a meeting in early January.

“We pulled together, let’s come together a bit and see what we can get done,” Thomas said. “I guess the frustrating bit is that this has been going on a few years now. I believe we’re perceived as being over-reactionary by the county.”

The group of more than 10 Colonial Heritage residents, including two victims of the dog attacks, has researched dog laws in other states and say they’ll lobby elected officials to make it more difficult for a person who doesn’t follow dog laws to own dogs, Thomas said.

The group will look to strengthen enforcement mechanisms and broaden dog laws, Thomas said.

Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at srobertsjr@vagazette.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.

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