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Wednesday, 01 June 2016 21:17

Taking a bite out of fine: Class erases hefty animal violation fees Featured

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Violators of the city's animal ordinances have a way to get out of fines but it comes with a class.

“She wanted to do something,” Roanoke Rapids Police Chief Chuck Hasty said of Leah Brewer, who holds the class when violators opt to pay the $25 registration fee. “We wanted to do something to educate our citizens about responsible pet ownership and having something so they could avoid paying a steep fine.”

Since the regulations regarding tethering animals, dogs running at large and vicious animals are city ordinances, the court system is not involved, Hasty said. “This is all city ordinances. It educates the public on what the ordinances are.”

(For more information about the class contact the police department at 252-533-2810)

It is a one-shot deal. Another violation and the fines apply, the chief said. “You pay the $25 fee for the class and volunteer with Rainbow Rescue.”

At a recent class last week, Brewer had three violators who were cited for their dogs running at large, which carries a $150 fine. A fine for having a dangerous or vicious animal carries a $500 fine.

“My dog dug out,” said a man at the class, who asked for his name to not be used.

A woman at the class, who also requested anonymity, said her dog got out through a back fence by chewing a hole.

For Brewer, the inspiration for the class was through her own bad experiences.

The first occurred three years ago when an animal running at large attacked Elle, who is Brewer's therapy dog.

The second time, Brewer said, was when a black lab, which was also running at large unsupervised, twice charged at her and Elle.

The classes, she said, are for education, prevention and to the teach the community how to be responsible pet owners.

These episodes led Brewer to meet with administration within the Roanoke Rapids Police Department, which has always had a working relationship with her and Elle. “We always like to find a solution to a problem and when you have the right people around you, like-minded people can work together for a common solution,” she said.

Education information in the classes comes from the national dog bite prevention campaign of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The program partners include the United States Postal Service, Victoria Stillwell, who is a nationally known dog trainer, and State Farm, of which Elle is an ambassador. The coalition also includes the American Humane Association and the Insurance Information Institute.

The first session was held on February 18 and sessions consist of two classes.

As it stands, final details of making volunteering at Rainbow Rescue a requirement of the classes are still being worked out, but will be finalized by the next classes.

“There is a need for community support,” Brewer said. “They are severely overburdened and I feel like it will help people learn responsibility.”

Jackie Stanley, treasurer and intake coordinator for Rainbow, sees the volunteer requirement as a plus for the animals at the center located on Highway 903 outside Halifax and for those who have taken the class.

“We're always short-handed,” Stanley said. “We hope some of the people see what we see every day.”

There are chores to be done — walking dogs, bathing dogs and cleaning crates. “Maybe some of them can work with animals who are not socialized and can see the long-term effects of leaving them alone.”

Brewer brings Elle to the classes and tells the members, “I don't feel comfortable with public speaking. She provides me emotional support. She represents what all dog owners can have.”

During the class Brewer goes over what it means to be a responsible pet owner, providing care and providing safety.

She also goes over the necessary identification requirements, which include name, address and phone number as well as rabies tags.

She goes over health issues such as ideal weight and proper feeding and hygiene.

The class, Brewer said, is not just for violators. “It's for people who want to come and learn.”

For the man in the class, it was eye-opening. “It's a good class. I'd tell anyone to go to it.”

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