Originally created 03/01/97

Plan would put bite in animal control law



AIKEN - Harrison Prather just got four new neighbors, which doesn't make him happy at all.

The owner of LRRP K-9 Services said Friday that four Labrador retrievers moved in six days ago across the street from his business.

The Labradors routinely antagonize the shepherds he trains as personal protection and police dogs when his staff exercises the animals daily along Farmingdale Court, Mr. Prather said.

His purebred dogs from Germany, Holland and the Czech Republic sell for between $12,500 and $20,000, he said.

"(The dogs) are terrorizing my livestock and my employees and Aiken County Animal Control won't do a damn thing about it," he said. "They've told me so."

Mr. Prather said he is afraid that one of his dogs or an employee might be hurt if the Labradors get too aggressive.

But the county, under its current nuisance ordinance, can't do anything about the roaming dogs.

At least, not until the Aiken County Council approves a proposal that would let animal control officers write tickets for problem animals, county administrator Bill Shepherd said.

The new ordinance is expected to be a heated discussion topic for the council in March. There will be a public hearing on the proposal Tuesday in the Business and Education Building at the University of South Carolina-Aiken.

"Nuisances caused by animals are so administrative," Mr. Shepherd said. "It takes as long as nine months to a year for a citizen to see relief."

Under the current law, at least five neighbors who live within 1,000 feet of a home have to complain before a barking dog can be declared a nuisance, he said.

And someone from the county has to verify that the dog is a problem.

The new proposal would bring "common sense" into play and let animal control officers write warnings and tickets for problem animals, such as dogs that bark repeatedly late at night or chase cars, Mr. Shepherd said.

Neighbors are sometimes reluctant to complain or enough people don't live close enough in some areas of the county for the nuisance ordinance to come into play, he said.

"Our normal policy would be to contact the owner, explain to them a complaint has been made and why that complaint is valid," he said. "We give them a `cease and desist' order. If they didn't comply, we would write a ticket."

The animal's owner could face a maximum penalty of a $200 fine and 30 days jail for violating a county ordinance, Mr. Shepherd said.

Ultimately, it would be up to a magistrate to determine if the animal should remain with its owner, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Prather said a change in the law can't come soon enough for him.

"If one of my dogs was out in the road (like that), I'd been in jail," he said. "It's really frustrating. I thought I could just pick up the phone and take care of the problem."