County approves dog control bill revision

CAMBRIDGE – The Dorchester County Council approved on Aug. 15 a revised dog control bill, featuring sections that aim to provide more protection for the animals. The vote was unanimous, with President Ricky C. Travers (Dist. 3), Vice President Tom C. Bradshaw (Dist. 5), William V. Nichols (Dist. 2), Rick M. Price (Dist. 4) and Don B. Satterfield (Dist. 1) all in favor.
A summary of Bill No. 2017-7, provided by the council, reads, “An act of the County Council of Dorchester County, Maryland, pursuant to Section 13-120 of the local government article of the Annotated Code of Maryland to repeal and reenact with amendments Chapter 78, entitled “Dog Control,” of the Dorchester County Code providing for a comprehensive system for the regulation of dogs, providing definitions for words used in Chapter 78 of the Dorchester County Code, providing for the administration and enforcement, providing for the applicability of Chapter 78, providing for animal care of dogs, providing for the seizure and impoundment and disposition of dogs, providing for the redemption of dogs, providing for procedures concerning persons bitten or exposed to dogs suspected of having rabies, providing for licenses and vaccination of dogs and providing any violation of the chapter shall be a civil infraction.”
A public hearing was held prior to the council’s vote. No citizens spoke.
County Attorney E. Thomas Merryweather noted the county Sheriff’s Office had studied the issue, and citizens had commented previously, as the bill was being composed. “We’ve been working on this bill for a long time,” Mr. Merryweather said.
Most of the new law is unchanged from the previous version, though a new section requires more care for dogs. In Section 78-4.1, it says, “It shall be unlawful for any person or owner to fail to provide his or her dog with proper care as defined in this section. For the purposes of this section, the following standards shall apply: 1) There must be drinkable water in adequate supply; and 2) The food shall be free from contamination and provided in sufficient quantity.”
In subsequent sections, the bill specifies requirements including space, protection from weather, veterinary care, proper collars and more. It will also be unlawful to leave a dog unattended in a parked vehicle without proper ventilation.
In Section C, the bill states, “Any animal control officer or other officer empowered to act by law may impound any dog found to be neglected by this section and pursuant to the provisions of Section 78-5 herein.”
The law has teeth, too.
“The maximum civil penalty for each violation of this chapter shall be $1,000. Each new day may constitute a separate violation. An occurrence may contain more than one offense. Each animal involved in an occurrence may constitute a separate offense.”
Council President Travers voiced his support for the bill, saying, “This is much better than what we had,” also noting that it could be modified if necessary. The bill will go into effect 60 days from Aug. 15.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at

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