Attack has Leesburg Council considering tougher dog laws - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Attack has Leesburg Council considering tougher dog laws

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

September 3, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A Lee County man will appear in court September ninth after being charged with three counts of animal cruelty when his two American bulldogs mauled another dog to death in the Indian Oaks Subdivision.

Wednesday, dog owner Ronald Bence said it was an accident that his dogs got out, and he's sorry for their actions.

Bence said his three year old and six month old American bulldogs were able to make it past their electric fence and gated yard when the gate was accidentally left open by one of his children.

The dogs followed a cyclist nearly three blocks away to Senah Drive where they ended up in the Fenstermaker's backyard. The Fenstermaker's six year old chained Australian Shepherd Clifford ended up in a fight with the six month old when the other dog jumped in, killing Clifford.

Bence is charged with three counts of animal cruelty, one for his dogs killing Clifford and two more for allowing his dogs to get out. Bence had three previous violations for the dogs roaming the neighborhood but it's been a year since his last violation.

The latest attack has Leesburg City Council talking about tougher laws for pet owners. They've asked the city attorney to explore additions to the city's leash law that might toughen the penalties violators receive. They're also checking with other cities and counties to see what their laws are.

Wednesday Chief Charles Moore sent out an e-mail to the police chiefs association asking other chief what laws are on their books. He wants to know what more the city might be able to do to protect the community from dangerous dogs.

Leesburg's most recent dog attack has raised questions of safety in the community.

"We have a lot of schools in Leesburg here, what if a dog get out and goes to the school and the child tries to pet the dog and it bites them. I've seen it happen to other kids in other counties and stuff and I just don't want it to happen here," said Leesburg Chief Charles Moore.

To prevent it from happening, they want to know what more can be done to force dog owners to keep dogs penned up and the community safe. Lee County Animal Control Sr. Officer Jackie Griggs said state laws already do a lot to define what a dangerous dog is.

"You have the German Shepherd, the Dobermans, the Rotweillers, the Pitbull dogs and the Chows," said Jackie Grigg, Lee County Sr. Animal Control Officer.

The city and county already have a way of dealing with dangerous dogs. In fact, Roxy is considered a dangerous dog. For her owners to get her back they'd have to pay 30 thousand dollars in insurance, keep her in a cage like this, with a top and bottom, muzzle her or keep her on a leash if she's out of that cage, and pay the county $100 a year to register a dangerous dog.

"It's just owners more responsibility with their animals, I believe would be the best route to go," said Grigg.

Both animal control officers and police say it's a difficult issue to deal with and whether tougher laws may help has yet to be decided.

"It's a sticky situation because a lot of times dogs are like humans and they want to protect their territory and a dogs in his yard that's his territory and he don't nobody or another dog to come on to it," said Moore.

Animal Control officers today said the city and county leash laws have made a big difference in the number of cases they do deal with. In the last four years, they've had just four dogs be labeled dangerous dogs.

Potential changes to the city's current animal ordinances won't come overnight. Chief Charles Moore said it could be months before any changes are brought before council.

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