Court Rules Waynesboro Mayor 'Dangerous Dog Owner' - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Court Rules Waynesboro Mayor 'Dangerous Dog Owner'

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Frank Lucente is well known in Waynesboro as a successful businessman, and the city's mayor, and now he must add the dubious title of dangerous dog owner.  

The mayor, and his dog "Luke", lost a hearing Friday in Waynesboro General District Court.  It was a two-hour civil hearing, but it had the feel of a full-blown criminal trial, with several witnesses on both sides.  Some of them reported seeing aggressive behavior from Luke, the mayor's 7-year-old golden retriever.  

The dangerous dog hearing was sparked by a Memorial Day dog biting incident.  John Layman told the judge that he was walking past the Pickett Road home of the Waynesboro mayor, when Lucente's dog Luke ran into the street and bit him on the back of the thigh.     

Layman testified that a remorseful Lucente offered to pay his medical bills, and even have the dog put down.  After hearing from numerous witnesses, Judge Steve Helvin declared Luke a dangerous animal.  The dog won't be euthanize, but will live under stern restrictions.    

Defense attorney John Hill said, "It has to be identified with either a chip or a tattoo.  The dog has to be on a leash and muzzled when it is off the owner's property."  

That leash resembles a warning for hazardous materials.  Luke will even have to be supervised by an adult when he's in his own fenced yard, which is now marked with signs. In addition, Luke is forever banned from Coyner Springs, Waynesboro's only leash-free park, where man and dog went nearly every day.

Lucente said, "Luke's going to have a different life, and I'm going to have a little different life too.   I'm sure we'll be both more isolated."

A veterinarian, who's been housing Luke for the past two weeks, said she did not believe him to be dangerous.  But Judge Helvin said his ruling was based on the dog's history.  While there are no other reported bites, three witnesses testified to several cases of aggressive behavior over the past two years.   

Lucente said he still does not believe Luke is a dangerous animal, and he pleaded with the judge for a second chance.  He might still get that chance, if he appeals the ruling.  Lucente has 10 days to decide if he'll do that.

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