Monday, February 18, 2008
Coweta, GA - In November, Stephanie Weckel's two Papillons -- each about 6 lbs -- were being walked by two of her young cousins when a neighbor's Siberian Husky and Bulldog escaped from the neighbor's garage and attacked them. Topher was killed instantly. Little Bit suffered severe internal injuries and was euthanized later upon the vet's recommendation.
The owners of the Husky and Bulldog pleaded guilty to violating the leash law and received fines of $165 for each dog and 180 days of unsupervised probation. The dogs were not impounded, quarantined nor removed from the premises. Coweta County Animal Control could not declare the dogs as dangerous, potentially dangerous or vicious because they did not attack or bite a human.
Under Georgia law, there is recourse for dog attacks if the victim is human, but not when animals attack other animals unless it's livestock. Some cities, however, have expanded their animal control ordinances to include companion pets in recourse.
"If you go to Fayetteville and other states, the ordinances are written more stricter for animal control," she said. "The dogs would have at least been picked up and quarantined for 10 days, if not put down immediately."And, that's what Weckel has petitioned Coweta County to do. Weckel said the county's animal control laws need updating because of the area's changing demographics and growing population. She is concerned that the ordinances aren't keeping up with how Newnan is changing. She adds that local and state legislators need to look beyond protecting a farmer's livestock and include our companion animals.
"I think if you look at our culture, animals are not considered as just pets anymore. They're companions. We use them for all kind of things, such as therapy dogs."Prompted by Weckel's campaign, Coweta County will consider expanding its definition of "nuisance" in the county's animal ordinance to include "aggressive dogs," or dogs that attack or fight with another animal outside the property of the owner or responsible person and the encounter results in severe injury or death to the other animal.
If the amendment passes, Weckel doesn't plan to stop her grassroots campaign at the county level. She plans to carry it statewide, and has started an online petition for her cause. Weckel hasn't generated much response because of the lack of public awareness on the issue.