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Animal panel avoids mentioning breeds

Report due on dealing with dangerous dogs

by Bryan P. Sears

Dog bite prevention education and the growing number of unlicensed dogs in the county appear to be the focus of a task force charged with investigating the issue of dangerous dogs.

The group's report, which likely will be released by the end of the year, will point out shortcomings in county animal control law but will not contain specific recommendations on changes to the law, according to the Baltimore County health officer, Dr. Pierre Vigilance.

"With regard to the law, we have chosen to show or speak to where we think the law focuses on the animal and not the owner," Vigilance said.

He added that legislation likely will not be focused on "specific breeds."

Education programs would focus on teaching owners their responsibilities under the law. Other programs would seek to teach parents and people who don't own dogs ways of dealing with leashed and unleashed dogs, Vigilance said.

Recommendations by the Dangerous Animal Task Force also likely will look at ways to increase the number of dogs licensed in the county. Of an estimated 200,000 dogs in the county, only about 9 percent are licensed. County law requires that all dogs be licensed.

Vigilance said the group looked at ways to provide licensing information through pet shops and veterinarians.

Councilman Vince Gardina, who requested the formation of the task force in May, said he was disappointed with the recommendations and said he had hoped for some that were breed-specific.

"I believe we have to be very strict about this," said Gardina, a Democrat who represents the 5th District, including Towson and Perry Hall. "I think it's gotten out of control. Some of these dogs are a danger to the community. I don't think being lenient or educating is the answer."

Gardina made the request after a 10-year-old boy was mauled by a pit bull in a Towson Manor Village alley April 28.

Dominic Solesky suffered severe injuries to his left thigh and spent nearly three weeks in the hospital. He is undergoing physical therapy to regain full use of his leg.

The dog, known as Clifford, was euthanized. Thomas O'Halloran, the dog's owner, was fined $500 and faces criminal charges.

Gardina said he is not looking to ban specific breeds but said he is concerned with pit bulls and pit bull mixes. Gardina said he favors tighter requirements to get a license for such dogs, along with more stringent requirements on the use of kennels or yard fencing.

The task force's final report is still in draft form and is likely to be released in the fall.

Gardina said that after reading the report he might consider creating a second task force with members "who bring some different perspectives. "

E-mail political editor Bryan P. Sears at political editor Bryan P. [email protected]

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