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Scott County seeking solution for livestock running at large

Clifford Jeffery • Dec 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM

GATE CITY — An exasperated homeowner came before the Scott County Board of Supervisors recently with a request.

Do something about loose livestock.

The Fort Blackmore man said he has woken in the morning to his dog barking, only to find 15 horses in his front yard eating grass and shrubs.

It’s a common problem, said Scott County Animal Control Officer Rick Barger.

The problem lies in the law that punishes animal owners on the ends of the spectrum. There is a misdemeanor charge Barger said he can level against those who allow animals to run loose, but the penalty is light. The next step up is a felony charge for those who intentionally allow livestock onto public roads.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this month to adopt an ordinance that will bridge the gap between the two penalties.

“This is a tool that I can use,” Barger told the board.

There will always be cattle and horses that escape, but Barger said 98 percent of people who have animals get out will make repairs to their fences and ensure they are kept off the roads after that.

“It’s that 2 percent I worry about,” Barger said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman David Redwine noted that several cows have escaped onto the road in Wadlow Gap in the past six months and been killed by vehicles.

Livestock on roads isn’t a good mix, County Attorney Dean Foster. A cow was killed between the November and December board meetings, he said.

The county received an insurance payment of $10,000 for a government car that was destroyed when it struck a cow.

The ordinance to prevent animals from running loose will be a tool to use against livestock owners who are consistently careless with their animals, Redwine said.

The ordinance applies to horses, mules, hogs, sheep, goats, cattle, fowl and other domestic livestock.

The penalty for an infraction, which is a class one misdemeanor, is imprisonment for up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Barger said he hopes the stiffer penalties persuade people to take more care with their livestock.

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