By: Jeremy D. WellsCarter County Times
Thursday night was a rough city council meeting for pet lovers. A citizen who came to complain about dangerous, unleashed dogs brought with her a pair of videos. One showed a dog charging her leashed dog while she walked down a city street, and a second, more disturbing video showed a pair of dogs cornering and killing a family’s pet cat.
That video, caught by a property owner’s doorbell camera, showed a pair of dogs, including one that appeared to be the same dog seen in the charging video, grabbing, shaking, and pulling a cat between them. At the end of the video, which took a matter of seconds to unfold, the cat’s owner can be seen running out the door, yelling at the dogs, and turning her own dog loose to chase them away.
Unfortunately, according to Susan Durisoe, who brought the videos to councils attention, it was too late for her pet.
As terrible and hard to watch as the video was, Durisoe said, it could have been much worse. It could have been a child instead of another pet.
Others in the neighborhood, however, argued that the problem wasn’t as Durisoe presented it. While they said there is a problem with strays and loose dogs, they contend that the dog in the videos isn’t the problem. One neighbor, who characterized “Socks” – the dog seen in the videos – as “a follower” who only participated in the cat attack because another dog was attacking it, said it was the other dogs that were the problem, including Durisoe’s dog. She said that while Durisoe’s dog is leashed, she uses a retractable leash and sometimes gives her dog more line, which she said antagonizes Socks.
“I have a right to walk on the city street in my neighborhood,” Durisoe countered.
Another lady, who identified herself as Laura Mauk, and Socks current owner, said that Durisoe has maced her dog in the past, and claimed that the dog participating in the cat attack was not Socks, but a nearly identical dog that sometimes roams the neighborhood as well.
But while the dispute over Socks may have as much to do with conflict between neighbors as it does with the dog, the content of the videos was undeniable. Other members of the public, unassociated with Durisoe or her neighbors, also discussed aggressive dogs running lose in their neighborhoods. These included dogs that chase children on bicycles and motorcycle riders who live in the neighborhood.
While mayor Troy Combs made it clear that he wasn’t interested in any personal disagreements between neighbors, or allowing council to be used to air such grievances, he said the videos made it clear that something needs to be done about dangerous dogs in the city.
Council acted last year to authorize the city street department to pick up strays and aggressive animals, and transport them to the county animal shelter. Most of the people on hand Thursday evening, however, said they weren’t aware that the street department was authorized to pick up dogs. When they called the county animal control officer, they said, they were told they needed to contact their city. That’s when most of them learned of the street department’s role.
The street department, however, is also limited in their ability to respond. They don’t have a facility for holding an animal, so if they get a call on the weekend or in the evening, when the animal shelter is closed, they don’t have access to drop a dog off at the shelter.
Combs said he had recently spoken with new judge executive Brandon Burton about the issue, and that Burton said the county could pick up dogs within city limits if the city would contribute $1,500 to the upkeep and running of the animal shelter and a fee of $100 per dog collected in the city limits.
None of the council members were happy with that offer – they’ve often complained of being
“double taxed” for services they should receive as county tax payers – but some of them were willing to swallow their pride and agree to terms if it meant they could have someone respond to aggressive animal complaints.
Council member Jennifer McGlone, who has long been a vocal critic of the county failing to provide county services like animal control within city limits, said she still had issues with the county requesting extra fees to pick up dogs.
“But, this is a problem, and we need to do something,” she said, adding the fee might be worth it to have the issue addressed until the city and county could come to another agreement.
Council members Michael Harper and Terry Stamper agreed with McGlone.
“We do have a dog issue,” Harper said. “I don’t feel comfortable paying double, but we have to do something.”
“I’d be willing to pay the $1,500 flat to get it over with,” Stamper said. He worried, however, that the $100 per dog fee could add up for the city.
Before they agree to any deal, however, council would like to understand what those funds are used for, specifically the $100 per animal fee.
“Before I approve it, I’d like to know why (the fees are necessary),” councilman Dustin Burchett said.
In related news, Larry Doucet came to council with a request they explore the possibility of dedicating a piece of land for a dog park. Doucet was recommending the erection of two fenced and gated areas, one for large dogs and one for smaller dogs, inside the area currently circumscribed by the Grayson walking track.
Some council members, however, expressed concerns that the space was too small, and would put the dog park barriers too close to the walking track where dogs inside the park might bark at walkers, especially if they were walking with their own dog on a leash.
“I think it’s a little cramped for a dog park,” McGlone said.
But while she was opposed to the location, McGlone said she was not opposed to the idea, and would support a dog park elsewhere inside city limits.
Doucet said the dog park would make Grayson more attractive to young homeowners and commuters to Ashland and Huntington, and make Grayson a more attractive location for businesses looking to locate here.
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