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Commission revisits proposed dog ordinance
Dangerous dogs would have to be microchipped, insured
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If a proposed animal-ordinance overhaul is adopted, Liberty residents who own dangerous dogs would be required to register and microchip the animals and carry liability insurance greater than $15,000.
The Liberty County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday revisited the ordinance, which first was proposed in December.
Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel pointed out some of the stricter provisions contained within the proposal before asking the commissioners to read the proposal and be prepared to vote during a future meeting. The ordinance would bring the county in line with a state law enacted last year.
Adoption of the rule would require the commission to create a volunteer animal-control board or task the health department board with filling such a role, he said.
Commissioner Marion Stevens Sr. asked whether the task would be too much for the health department board. Sprinkel said he believes so.
“It’s very hard now to find volunteers to sit on boards at present,” Stevens said.
The board would be responsible for conducting hearings on animal attacks and specific animals and, along with a designated animal-control officer, would have the power to designate animals as dangerous or potentially dangerous.
“If a dog is classified as a dangerous dog, the dog would be microchipped, so the dog could be tracked wherever it goes,” Sprinkel said. “That’s something that you have all not done before; this is the first time it will show up in an ordinance that you have.”
According to the ordinance’s language, a dangerous dog is one that, according to authority records, “inflicts injury upon a human without provocation on public or private property at any time, aggressively bites, attacks or endangers the safety of humans without provocation.”
If a dangerous dog was to be involved in a subsequent dispute, it would be classified as a vicious dog.
Further, the law would prohibit issuance of dangerous dog registration for people with recent convictions for serious violent felonies, dog fighting, or felonies involving trafficking in illegal drugs.  
 Under the rule, a vicious dog shall not be transferred, sold or donated to anyone else unless it is relinquished to a government facility or veterinarian to be euthanized.
Because the county would only have the power to enforce the ordinance in unincorporated areas, other municipalities — especially those who contract with the county for animal-control services — also would need to enact the ordinance for the law to take effect.
Commissioners Eddie Walden and Connie Thrift both asked how or whether the rule would pertain to animals such as chickens.
County Administrator Joey Brown pointed out that the law pertains only to animals customarily vaccinated for rabies, which excludes chickens.
“It really has to either have a record of trying to bite someone or having bitten someone,” Brown said.
Commissioner Justin Frasier asked how the rule would be enforced.
Sprinkel said most referrals would come through law enforcement.
“What we’re trying to encourage people to do is do what they should so that they won’t have to incur all that,” Brown said. “Because once they do, it’s going to be expensive.”
“Once the dog has been identified as a dangerous dog, basically that dog cannot come out in public without having a muzzle on it, without having a very strong leash under complete control,” Sprinkel added. “It’s got to be on lockdown — it’s going to be in jail is what it’s going to be, with a heavy insurance policy placed on it … it’s not going to be pleasant for the animal or the people.”

In other news Tuesday, the board also:
• passed a resolution requiring attorneys who use space within the Liberty County Justice Center to engage in a contract with the Clerk of Court that obligates them to pay the amount of overtime wages for Liberty County Sheriff’s Office deputies who secure the building after hours, plus an additional 3 percent related to overhead operating costs.
• issued a liquor license to Dunham Farms in Midway, which already was licensed to sell beer and wine.
• issued a proclamation declaring March 29 as Good Friday Walk for Shelter Day in conjunction with the Liberty County Homeless Coalition’s second-annual walk for the cause.

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