Pet owners in Hancock County have a new reason to keep a closer eye on their animals. County Supervisors today passed a "Dangerous Animal Control Ordinance."
The new law gives the animal control officers more power and pet owners more responsibility for what their animals do. Still some people say the new law doesn't go far enough.
"I'm sure some of ya'll live in the city that's protected by the city leash law, but what about people out in the county? We need protection too from dogs. I got some pictures here I'd like for ya'll to look at," Hancock County Resident Clarence Garcia said.
Garcia made sure supervisors saw the damage he says was done by neighborhood dogs to 200 tomato plants in his garden.
"When dogs get in there and go to romping, they break them off. They've been destroying my garden and threatening to bite and I'm tried of it."
Garcia wants county leaders to pass a leash law with some teeth in it.
"There are questions about the enforceability of an ordinance that is not applied equally throughout the county," County Attorney Ronnie Artiques said.
County leaders say they can't enforce the 1995 leash law because it doesn't apply to areas north of Interstate Ten. It was written that way to appease hunters.
District 3 Supervisor Lisa Cowand backed up the old law.
"The people that do hunt and use the dogs to hunt, we don't want to take away their rights either, if in fact they are tagged properly."
No one's in a hurry to change those rules, but supervisors say the new Dangerous Animal Ordinance should offer some relief to people hounded by vicious animals.
"The ordinance will allow the animal control officer to take these type of animals into custody to remove them from the streets and ultimately the owners of these animals could be fined."
Supervisors say they hope the threat of fines will encourage pet owners to keep their animals under control. Fines could vary from case to case, but a judge could penalize a pet owner up to a thousand dollar fine for an out of control pet.
As for a leash law, County Supervisors instructed the Board Attorney to research a law suitable for everyone.