Think theres a bad dog on the loose? Look it up. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services launched a new interactive web site, the Dangerous Dog Registry on July 2, enabling people to track dangerous dogs in their area.
Legislation from the 2006 General Assembly mandated creation of the online registry and also placed other restrictions on dangerous dogs and their owners. The legislation was spurred by incidents in which people and animals were killed or seriously injured in dog attacks in Virginia according to Elaine J. Lidholm, the director of communications for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
One incident in March 2005, involved an 82-year-old Spotsylvania woman, Dorothy Sullivan, and her dog who were killed in a dog attack. In October 2005, there was another attack in Suffolk County involving a pit bull that mauled two-year-old Jonathan Martin to death. In the Spotsylvania case, the owner was charged as well.
It takes more than a snarl or dirty look from a dog to get on the registry though. Dogs must be declared dangerous by local officials or local courts before being entered in the registry.
It has to have done something, said Lidholm.
Before the site was created, the state listed 290 dangerous dogs which will have to be re-investigated and listed on the site, Lidholm said. So far, there are nine dogs on the site and another six or seven under investigation. Many of the original 290 were euthanized. Probably the majority of them, said Lidholm. Authorities are working on getting the information up to date by October 2007.
Packet of info
Last month, VDACS sent an informational letter to contacts in the localities to let them know the capabilities of the system and their responsibilities for reporting dangerous dogs. That packet also included a sequential batch of tags that registered dogs must wear. When the site launched, it contained names, addresses and photos of nine registered dogs. On the website, the user can look up dogs in particular areas. Currently on the site, there is one dangerous dog listed in Loudoun County (Ashburn), but no entries for any other nearby counties or in the City of Alexandria.
In Alexandria, it would be up to the city manager to appoint dangerous dogs to the website, and the officials at the shelter are awaiting a decision by the city attorney on this matter. As of this time we have not registered any dogs yet, said Tara Blot, the supervisor at the Alexandria Animal Shelter.
Statewide, the reaction to the site has been mixed, said Lidholm. Some said the registry didnt go far enough, while others accused the state of McCarthyism, named after the communist black list of Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. The reaction from the public has been all over the place, Lidholm said.