County Commission to examine Dog Ordinance enforcement and resources

Tim Walker
AMR Reporter

Alice Arbuckle, of Hillsboro, was on the agenda to discuss the Dog Ordinance at the September 17 Pocahontas County Commission meeting. Arbuckle asked the commissioners to consider revising that ordinance using the Kanawha County Animal Cruelty and Canine Tethering Ordinance as a model for those revisions.

Arbuckle had placed an ad in The Pocahontas Times outlining her concerns and planned appearance before the commission, and had been interviewed by Allegheny Mountain Radio, as well. She said she did so in hopes that others would attend and share their observations and concerns about dogs in the county being tethered outside on short chains all year without shade or shelter from the weather. Arbuckle said many of these dogs have been seen with overturned food and water bowls and surrounded by their own feces.

A large crowd filled the commission room and spilled out into the hallway. Twenty-three citizens signed up to address the commission about the dog ordinance issue. Nearly all of them, however, were adamantly opposed to the commission revising the current dog ordinance. Only Laurie Cameron and Ken Springer, a member of the Humane Society, spoke out in support of Arbuckle’s concerns and her solution, to revise the dog ordinance.

Arbuckle laid out an impassioned case to the commission in which she said she was speaking as an advocate for all the dogs in Pocahontas County. She said that if the commission used the Kanawha Ordinance as a model, it would empower the Animal Enforcement Officer to protect dogs from what she sees as cruelty and abuse. Although Arbuckle acknowledged that there are many well-cared for dogs in the county, she said she has observed many dogs “living a life of quiet desperation, forced to endure inhumane conditions 24/7.” She wants to see such tethering made illegal as it is in Kanawha County. Arbuckle said that the Kanawha Ordinance does make an exception for tethering hunting dogs.

Many of those who spoke out against revising the Dog Ordinance said they keep their dogs tethered, but they love and take care of their dogs and ensure they have shelter from the elements and adequate food and water. Many of those in opposition to revisions, said that changing the ordinance is not necessary since the type of cruel treatment described by Arbuckle is already prohibited by the current ordinance.

Commission President McLaughlin pointed out that everybody in the room opposes the cruel treatment of dogs. He said that the Animal Enforcement Officer may not have enough resources to properly enforce the law. So, the commission passed a motion to look at the current ordinance and to invite the Animal Enforcement Officer to a meeting to ask what additional resources he needs to better enforce the ordinance.

A reading of the current dog ordinance reveals that, while it addresses dogs running loose; dogs not licensed or vaccinated against rabies; the failure of dog owners to clean up their dog’s waste on public property or on other people’s property; and people who allow their dogs to disturb others by excessive barking, it does not mention dogs being tethered in inhumane conditions or otherwise being cruelly treated. Although there may be other state statutes that do prohibit animal cruelty.

In other business, the commission heard from Cara Rose, the Executive Director of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB), who delivered the annual report and financial review. Rose said that $2.2 million has been collected in Hotel Occupancy Tax, the most ever, which is a sign that the tourism industry in the county is thriving.

Rose also said the CVB will be hosting the West Virginia Tourism Conference next week at Snowshoe. She said Pocahontas County has only hosted it three times in the past 30 years, and this presents an opportunity to showcase this county’s tourism successes.

Rose reported that two of the seven new entrance signs have been placed along the roads at the county lines, and they look great.

She also provided an update on the Bicentennial plans, including having local artists paint eight large sculptures of trout, placing them in seven communities and one to be placed at the courthouse on behalf of the county commission. These sculptures will honor each of the eight rivers that begin in Pocahontas County. The commissioners agreed to have their trout sculpture represent the Elk River.

In addition, the commission

• Passed a resolution designating the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation as being the lead economic development organization for the county in 2019-2020.

• Authorized Sheriff Jeff Barlow to post a “weapons” notice at the courthouse

• Approved using a line item account rather than a checking account for any Broadband Study Grant expenditures.

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