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Dogs bring worries to residents outside city limits

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charles Lovejoy lives on Coal River Road -- in Kanawha County, but outside of city limits. He also lives near three dogs that he says are terrorizing the neighborhood.

He's been complaining about the dogs for months but, partly because he lives in an unincorporated part of the county, hasn't been able to find a way to take action against the dogs. 

"Something is going to happen to somebody," Lovejoy said. "It's summertime and a lot more people are going to be out on foot and riding a bicycle. Those dogs are going to get one of them."

Lovejoy hasn't been bitten, but his complaint is common among people who are afraid of the dogs: He thinks that some authority should be able to take action before the dogs hurt someone. 

In fact, county officials can't do anything about a dog unless it's bitten someone -- a regulation meant to protect dog owners from the whims of their neighbors.

"A lot of times people say they're trying to bite, but there's just no way for us to know," said Donna Clark, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association. "A lot of times it's that the neighbors are feuding. There are just so many situations that go on."

The problem doesn't exist in Charleston, where there's a city law that prohibits dogs from running free. But in the unincorporated parts of the county there is no such law. If a dog is wearing tags that prove it has its county license and a rabies vaccine, animal control officers have to let it run free.

Clark says she gets calls complaining about dogs without leashes in the county's unincorporated areas "all the time." But there's usually nothing she can do.

Lovejoy has taken issue with that policy ever since one of his neighbor's dogs chased him on his bicycle a few months ago. The chase was enough to make him crash his bike into a ditch, sending him to the hospital with scrapes on his face and shoulders.

He tried to report the dogs then, but since he hadn't been bit, had no luck. Since then, he's been forced to try to live with the dogs -- sometimes he takes an alternate route to work on his bike, tripling his riding time from 3 to nearly 9 miles, and his roommate has started carrying a stick every time he goes to the mailbox.

Frank Pacifico, who lives in the Oakwood subdivision in Putnam County, said he faces a similar problem in his neighborhood. He says it's kept him from taking walks in his subdivision in the evening.

"I'm afraid for the people who have little dogs too," he said. "Several people have smaller dogs."

Clark acknowledges that the system isn't perfect, but said that usually neighbors could resolve the problem on their own, without even getting the humane association involved.

"I tell people they need to go talk to the owner of the dog. And be nice, don't go and jump on that person, try to be nice and talk it over as a dog owner," she said. 

"A lot of time that does work because they have no idea it was a problem until someone came to them." 

Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.maunz@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.


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