Getting animals under control

At right, Richard Junkins points out where his wife Lynn was injured after a loose dog bit her in Midville.

At right, Richard Junkins points out where his wife Lynn was injured after a loose dog bit her in Midville.

Midville citizens Richard and Lynn Junkins approached the mayor and council during the May 3 meeting after Lynn was bitten by a dog running at-large.

While walking up Jones Street the previous week, Lynn Junkins heard a dog barking. About the time she reached the old funeral home, she heard someone shout. She turned around to see a dog running toward her. The canine initially circled her, then briefly stood still before attacking her.

“It knocked her down,” Richard told the panel. “She hit her head on the sidewalk. She has four staples in the back of her head.”

Additionally, the dog inflicted injuries on her face that required a total of nine more stitches. The dog left her with a puncture wound as well. Richard asked the panel to more strictly enforce the city’s ordinance, requiring that dog owners keep their pets leashed. He informed the council of a free-roaming German Shepard that has charged people recently.

Since I’ve been in Midville, I don’t think I have ever not seen a dog running loose somewhere in town,” he said. “There’s too much going on and she could have just as easily been injured or killed. I know several people who have said they are not going to walk anymore because there are too many dogs around.”

Lynn said the couple called Burke County Animal Services. The dog had been restrained on a leash but broke off of it.

Animal Services Director Chaddrick Parrish said May 4 that the dog was quarantined for 10 days according to state protocol. The department intends to follow up. They were not contacted until two days after the dog bit Lynn.

During the meeting, Mayor Wallace Lemons read the city’s leash law which states that it is unlawful for any owner in possession of any dog to allow the animal to run at-large. The ordinance states that any dog found running loose will immediately be impounded. The problem is the city doesn’t have anyone to enforce the ordinance, he said.

A citizen chimed in asking if it is lawful to kill a dog that is attacking a person. Sgt. Matthew Petrea of the Burke County Sheriff’s Office answered the question at Lemons’ request.

“You can protect yourself but you can’t just kill somebody’s dog,” he said. “You have the right to protect yourself.”

Lemons said he spoke with the county’s animal services who directed him to County Manager Merv Waldrop. Waldrop sent the mayor an intergovernmental agreement. If signed by Midville, the county will assume animal control issues in the outlying city. Waynesboro and Sardis have already signed up for the animal control services. However, it looks more likely to be one of the first tasks-at-hand for the new Midville police chief.

“The only catch to that is, that every time we call them and they come down here it is $200,” Lemons said of the intergovernmental agreement. “That would be out of our range. So, we are going to have to deal with it, I think, in-house.”

According to Waldrop, the Service Delivery Strategy spells out which agency is responsible for what services and where. The cities and the county all agreed that animal control is a function each one provides if it chooses. The commissioners elected to use their share of the SPLOST to build an animal shelter and provide the service in the unincorporated areas. At the time, Waynesboro provided the service in the city and maintained its own shelter.

“The board has agreed to contract with cities that wanted to get into animal control,” Waldrop said in an email May 4, “Realize that the County staff enforces the county ordinances that only apply outside the cities. We have no jurisdiction in the cities. Animal control is not a required service but one that a jurisdiction can choose to provide. Some want to adopt ordinances and provide the service, but it is expensive.”

According to the county’s animal control ordinance, an aggressive animal is one which demonstrates the intention to attack a human without provocation on at least one occasion. At-large is defined as any domestic animal not leashed or not under the direct physical or voice control of the owner. An animal that unreasonably endangers the life or health of people, and inflicts lacerations requiring multiple sutures, is defined as a public nuisance.

The county’s ordinance also spells out the difference between a dangerous animal and a vicious animal. A vicious animal typically was deemed dangerous after the first time it caused a substantial puncture of a person’s skin using its teeth and aggressively attacked in a manner that caused a person to reasonably believe the animal posed an imminent threat.

“Proper enclosure for a dangerous animal or for a vicious animal shall mean an enclosure on the owner’s property, securely confined indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked pen, fence, or structure, suitable to prevent the entry of children or other animals and designed to prevent the animal from escaping,” the county’s animal control regulation ordinance states.

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