The Nov. 3 Virginian-Pilot contains a report that will probably surprise most people in Tidewater. To quote the article, “The ‘enforcement areas’” for the city law requiring owners to keep their dogs on leashes when taking the animals off their own property, “omit large swaths of rural Suffolk and some newer housing developments.”
The exceptions—which do not exist in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, or Virginia Beach unless a dog is properly and legally used for hunting—have led to situations like one described in the article in which animal control officers could not impound a threatening pit bull because the officers had no legal authority to do so.
I wrote a few months ago that dangerous dogs often have owners who do not take the responsibilities to properly train and control their pets. Few steps are more responsible—or simpler—than keeping a dog on a leash while taking the animal out of the house or outside a fenced yard. At least 20 Americans have already died this year after being attacked by a dog. The final tally for dog bite fatalities in 2009 will probably exceed the number of 23 reached in 2008. And as high as those statistics seem, deaths from dog attacks pale in comparison to the millions of serious injuries that result from dog attacks in the United States each year.
Suffolk city council members have agreed to review their municipal leash law and may vote on an expanded ordinance this December. I hope the council members do act quickly.
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