Content Warning: The following story contains graphic images which may upset sensitive viewers and children.
(BEDFORD) – The Lawrence County Commissioners voted to pass the 2019 Animal Control Ordinance on Tuesday morning.
“It took us a while to re-write and [to] all to come to an agreement,” says Sheriff Mike Branham. “We came up with the best options and [we] can now move forward. We addressed some issues that were not in the old ordinance like feral cats and redefined the definition of a vicious dog.”
White River Humane Society Board of Directors President Buddy Hendricks addressed the commissioners several times over the past few months about the importance of drafting a county ordinance regarding the issue of dogs seized by animal control.
Fourteen dogs, including five puppies, were found emaciated and in poor health. They were then removed from a Bedford home in June 2019. One dog was found dead inside the home. The dogs included a Great Dane puppy, a pit bull and pit bull mixes as well as a beagle mix with a litter of puppies. The dogs were housed at the White River Humane Society which taxed an already overcrowded shelter.
The old ordinance, which dated back to 1997, said that if the dogs were released to the owner that the shelter would not receive funds for holding and caring for those dogs. The animals would also have remained at the shelter pending the outcome of the criminal case.
Recently, Jennifer Fields of Springville addressed the Lawrence County Commissioners with concerns of three vicious dogs in her neighborhood. The dogs have reportedly killed and injured beloved pets, including hers, in the neighborhood located on Harrodsburg Road. The dogs are three South African Boerboels owned by Dr. Stanley Stancil.
Fields says she now has no other option but to carry a 9mm handgun and stand guard while her two young daughters play in the yard as she fears the dogs will attack again.
A situation which claimed the first known victim of the three dogs occurred in December 2018. Jessie was an elderly beagle mix owned by Sam and Dana Martin. They say the three Boerboels “ripped their dog to shreds.” In February 2019, Lane and Lesley Kimmel’s dog, Dozer, was attacked. Two of the Boerboels held the beagle-basset mix while the third ripped its stomach open. Dozer died from the injury.
Lawrence County Animal Control Officer Lola Nicholson issued Stancil his first three citations.
38 days later, Fields said that her 10-year-old bloodhound Jolene barely escaped death. The dog suffered a neck injury during the incident. The wound required 20 stitches, two wound drains, antibiotics, and pain medications, but she survived. Her vet bills totaled up to be more than $1,500.
Following the incident, Dr. Stanley Stancil was cited for three counts of animals running at-large. He was also given an infraction for having an animal stray beyond his premises in addition to another citation for harboring a non-immunized dog; each a $135 fine. In March 2019 he was charged with criminal mischief and the dogs were impounded at the White River Humane Society. The charge was dismissed on May 23, 2019. Once the criminal mischief case was dismissed, all of the dogs were given back to Stancil. The humane society was not paid for housing the dogs.
April Deon, who lives on Vinegar Hill Addition, told the commissioners that her dog Dak was killed by her neighbor’s two pit bulls while on its leash and 20 feet from her backdoor. The dog’s owner was cited for having an animal running at-large and harboring non-immunized animals on May 20, 2019 but the pit bull was released from quarantine.
Fields and a group of supporters pleaded with county officials for stronger laws.
County officials worked diligently on updating the ordinance and getting it passed.
The new ordinance includes the following policy:
No dog may be declared vicious and dangerous if a threat, injury or damage was sustained by a person who, at the time, was committing a willful trespass or other tort upon the premises occupied by the owner or keeper of the dog or was provoking, tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog or has in the past been observed to have provoked, tormented, abused or assaulted the dog or was committing or attempting to commit a crime. The definition shall not be construed to include dogs that are part of a governmental organization or a trained guard dog in performance of its duty.
Unrestrained dogs and nuisance animals shall be taken by a police officer, or animal control officer, to the White River Humane Society.
If a license tag or other means of identification is found on the impounded animal, the animal control officer will notify the owner by telephone or mail.
Any owner reclaiming an impounded animal shall pay the sheltering agency a reasonable fee for the care and keeping of the animal.
Any animal not reclaimed by its owner within seven working days shall become the property of the animal shelter for disposition at their discretion.
In addition to impoundment of an animal found at large, the animal control officer or police officer may issue to the known owner of the animal a notice of ordinance violation.
The owner of an impounded animal may also be proceeded against for violation of this ordinance.
Temporary impoundment of livestock by order of the court having jurisdiction shall be subject to the Lawrence County Impoundment Bond Schedule and procedure.
Temporary impoundment of vicious animals by animal control or the sheriff’s department with probable cause shall be subject to the Lawrence County Impoundment Bond Schedule and procedure and be reviewed by the Lawrence County Animal Control Commission.
The Animal Control Commission will consist of the animal control officer, the sheriff, a commissioner, the prosecutor or deputy prosecutor, and the county attorney. They will meet on an “as needed” basis.
“This will give the owner or owners of the animal their due process,” Sheriff Branham added.
In the case of a vicious animal, the Commission shall hold a hearing and determine the status of a vicious animal. The Animal Control Commission may consider all relevant evidence, including reports, witnesses and whether the incident indicates if the animal is potentially dangerous in an ordinary situation where the average person could not reasonably be expected to foresee and take measure to prevent injuries.
The Commission in rendering a decision has the authority to attach any and all reasonable conditions on the owners regarding the types of enclosures to be used, the types of restraint systems to be used and other orders to ensure the safety of both the public and other animals.
For an unaltered animal, the fine for a first-time violation will be $45. The amount of the fine will increase $45 for each subsequent offense up to a maximum of $270.
For an altered animal, the fine for a first-time violation will be $15. The amount of the penalty will increase $15 for each subsequent offense.
The ordinance allows the county to contract with a local shelter like the White River Humane Society to house stray animals, those that have been seized or to quarantine vicious animals.
If your animal is seized and impounded by the Sheriff’s Department for abandonment, neglect, failure to restrain, failure to provide care, repeatedly running at large, or being a public nuisance the owner of that animal has to post a bond in an amount sufficient to provide for the animal’s care and keeping for at least an additional 30 days with the court no later than 10 days after the animal was impounded.
If a bond expires and is not renewed, the animal shelter may determine the disposition of the animal, subject to a court order. If the owner of the animal is convicted of an offense under the ordinance, the owner shall reimburse the animal shelter for the expenses of the animal’s care and keeping.
- Horses, cattle and other livestock is $300 per animal per 30 day period
- Dogs are $300 per animal per 30 day period
- Cats are $150 per animal per 30 day period
- Other animals not listed is $100 per animal per 30 day period