Augusta County Considers Dog Barking, Panhandling Laws
If you're annoyed by barking dogs and panhandlers, Augusta County is considering a pair of laws you'll probably like. Both are a response to complaints the sheriff's office routinely hears. But are they needed, and how would they work?
Augusta set up an ordinance committee to look at how other cities and counties deal with complaints about solicitors and barking canines. Neighboring Staunton has had ordinances on the books for years, but can usually rely on neighbors being neighborly.
The Augusta County Sheriff Randy Fisher says he fields weekly complaints about panhandlers working busy intersections. But if a new county ordinance passes they could be hit with a fine of up to $500.
The sheriff says some can afford it. "One panhandler we talked to about a year ago was averaging $250 a day. He told the deputy that's what he makes a day," said Fisher.
The city of Staunton already has a panhandling law on the books but has only had to use it twice in the past two years.
Capt. Leslie Mitchell with the Staunton Police Department said, "We will speak to the individual and let them know what the city ordinance is and ask them to move on. If they don't, we'll go back and charge them."
Augusta is also looking at a dog-barking ordinance - one that could bring fines against an owner whose canine barks for more than 10 minutes during early-morning hours. Staunton has a nuisance-dog provision which has led to 12 charges this year.
"A lot of times it's making people aware of what the city code is and that we have gotten a complaint. And most people are pretty compliant," said Mitchell.
The Augusta sheriff says his office has fielded 26 barking-dog complaints this year. He agrees that in most cases, people won't need the long arm of the law.
Fisher said, "If they've got a neighbor that, number one, they don't want to communicate with or can't communicate with... Then this ordinance will be in place - if it is passed."
That is no guarantee. Since Augusta County supervisors are divided on both these proposed ordinances. They'll hear from the public, during a hearing set for November 14.
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