Did You Know There’s a Dangerous Dog Ordinance?

By Steve Novotney


It was a unanimous vote on Jan. 16, 2007. Six council members and Mayor Nick Sparachane were all in favor of adopting a Dangerous and Vicious Dog Ordinance for the city of Wheeling.

The ordinance automatically labeled one breed – the Canary breed – dangerous and vicious dogs, and any dog of any breed can be determined the same if the City Manager of Wheeling deems it appropriate.

So, if a Wheeling resident owns a pit bull or a dog that’s involved with one or more incidents involving aggressive behavior, this ordinance mandates more than a few rules.

  • Such pets must be leashed and muzzled when not inside the owner’s residence or behind a mandated six-foot privacy fence.
  • These owners must post “Beware of Dog” signs in prominent places, especially where the public may enter and exit the dog owner’s property.
  • And these owners must register these pets with the city of Wheeling, and when doing so, must supply proof that they have secured at least a $100,000 liability insurance policy that protects against any damage or injury involved with an incident involving a member of the public.

But how many people know of these mandates?

Doug McCroskey, the dog warden and humane officer for Ohio County, said that approximately 25 percent of Wheeling residents possess no knowledge concerning the ordinance. In fact, McCroskey broke it down this way:

In my opinion, about 50 percent of the citizens know about it; 25 percent have no idea it even exists; and the remaining 25 percent couldn’t care less.”

I wasn’t a math major, but McCroskey’s estimates tell me there’s work to be done.

The options?

  • Public Service Announcement requests should be made by the staff of the city of Wheeling to all media outlets serving the residents of the city of Wheeling. … “Did you know there are rules about pet ownership in Wheeling, W.Va.? If you would like to learn more, please call … .
  • The city of Wheeling should issue press releases each and every time the City Manager determines a dog to be dangerous and vicious. That way, the decision will gain coverage by the local media outlets, therefore raising awareness for those who pay attention to local news.
  • And the city of Wheeling already does an excellent job of communicating boil orders, road closures, service schedule changes, and several other public notices, so why not add to those efforts an attempt to educate the Wheeling public by posting online links to the actual ordinance?

The only remaining question concerns whether or not any kind of effort can make that 25 percent McCroskey said couldn’t care less about the existence of a pet-related ordinance. It’s my belief the number would dwindle if efforts are made to reach more folks than those who have been educated thus far.

So, in the spirit of education, below is the “meat” of the city’s dangerous dog ordinance. For further reading, please utilize the following link for a listing of all of the city’s codified ordinances: http://www.conwaygreene.com/wheeling.htm.



No owner, keeper, or harborer of a dangerous or vicious dog shall fail to comply with the following requirements:

(a)    Leash.  No person having charge, custody, control or possession of a dangerous or vicious dog shall allow the dog to exit its kennel, pen or other proper enclosure unless such dog is securely attached to a leash no more than six (6) feet in length.  No such person shall permit a dangerous dog to be kept on a chain, rope or other type of leash outside its kennel or pen unless a person capable of controlling the dog is in physical control of the leash.  The leash or tether must be controlled by a person who is of suitable age and discretion or securely attached, tie or affix the leash or tether to the ground or a stationary object or fixture so that the dog is adequately restrained and station such a person in close enough proximity to that dog so as to prevent it from causing injury to any person.

(b)    Muzzle.  It shall be unlawful for any owner or keeper of a dangerous or vicious dog to allow the dog to be outside of its proper enclosure, unless the dog wears a properly fitted muzzle to prevent it from biting humans or other animals.  Such muzzle shall not interfere with the dog’s breathing or vision.  A muzzle is mandatory; however, it is unlawful for any person to own, keep or harbor any dog known by him to be vicious and/or dangerous, or in the habit of biting or attacking other persons whether or not such dog wears a muzzle or a tag.

(c)     Confinement.  Except when leashed and muzzled as provided in this section, a dangerous or vicious dog shall be securely confined indoors or confined in a locked pen or other secure enclosure that is suitable to prevent the entry of children and is designed to prevent the dog from escaping.  The enclosure shall include shelter and protection from the elements and shall provide adequate exercise room, light and ventilation.  The enclosed structure shall be kept in a clean and sanitary condition and shall meet the following requirements:

(1)   The structure must have secure sides and a secure top, or all sides must be at least six (6) feet high;

(2)   The structure must have a bottom permanently attached to the sides, or the sides must be imbedded not less than one (1) foot into the ground;

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(3)   The structure must be of such material and closed in such a manner that the dog cannot exit the enclosure on its own.

(d)    Indoor Confinement. No dangerous or vicious dog shall be kept on a porch, patio, or in any part of a house or structure that would allow the dog to exit such building on its own volition.  In addition, no such dog shall be kept in a house or structure when the windows or screen doors are the only obstacle preventing the dog from exiting the structure.

(e)    Signs.  All owners, keepers, or harborers of dangerous or vicious dogs shall display in a prominent places on their premises signs easily readable by the public using the words “Beware of Dog.”  They are to be placed primarily at points of egress and ingress.

(f)    Liability Insurance, Surety Bond. The owner of a dangerous and/or vicious dog shall present to the City Manager proof that he has procured liability insurance with an insurer authorized to write liability insurance in this State providing coverage in each occurrence, subject to a limit, exclusive of interest and costs, of not less than one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) because of damage or bodily injury to or death of a person caused by the vicious dog, covering as well any damage or injury whatsoever that may be caused by the dangerous or vicious dog.  The policy shall contain a provision requiring that the City be notified immediately by the agent issuing the policy in the event that the insurance policy is canceled, terminated or expires.  The liability insurance or surety bond shall be obtained prior to the issuing of a permit to keep a dangerous or vicious dog and a copy of the certificate must be given to the license office and kept on file.  The dog owner shall sign a statement attesting that he shall maintain and not voluntarily cancel the liability insurance policy during the twelve (12) month period for which a permit is sought, unless he ceases to own or keep the dog prior to the expiration date of the permit period.  The owner shall provide the City Manager with notice of any cancellation on the liability insurance policy.  In the event that the owner proves to the satisfaction of the City Manager that insurance is not available at any cost, the owner may post with the City Manager a surety bond, of an equivalent amount, payable to any person injured by the dangerous or vicious dog.  The decision as to whether a surety bond will be accepted is within the sole discretion of the City Manager.

(g)    Mandatory Spaying or Neutering.  Within 30 days of the City Manager’s determination that a particular dog is dangerous or vicious, the owner of said dog shall have it spayed or neutered and provide the City Manager with a written statement from the veterinarian, who performed the operation, verifying the same.

(h)    Notification of Escape.  The owner or keeper of a dangerous or vicious dog shall notify the County Animal Control Officer, the City of Wheeling Police Department and the City Manager immediately if such dog escapes from its enclosure or restraint and is at large.  Such immediate notification shall also be required if the dog bites or attacks a person or domestic animal.

   (i)    Failure to Comply.  It shall be unlawful and a misdemeanor for any owner of a dangerous or vicious dog registered with the City Manager to fail to comply with the requirements and conditions set forth in this Section.  An owner or keeper of a dangerous or vicious dog who fails to register the dog shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00).  Each day that the dangerous or vicious dog is not registered shall be a separate offense.  The fine for any other violation of this section, for which a specific fine amount has not been set forth, shall be Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250.00) with each day that the offense continues being a separate citable offense.  Any dog found to be in violation of this Section 508.07 shall be subject to immediate seizure and impoundment.  In addition, failure to comply with the requirements and conditions set forth in Section 508.07 may result in the City Manager revoking the permit providing for the keeping of such animal.  Other ordinances pertaining to penalties for injuries inflicted by dogs shall be in addition to the penalties set forth herein.

(j)    All owners of dangerous or vicious dogs at the date of adoption of this ordinance shall be given 60 days after such adoption to comply with the regulations contained within this ordinance.

(k)     Request for Exemption. Any owner, keeper or harborer of a dangerous or vicious dog may make application to the City Manager to receive exemption from certain provisions of this section if the canine has actual certification for such purposes as therapeutic use, or if an owner is a certified breeder, etc.  The decision to grant an exemption is at the sole discretion of the City Manager and exemption from one area of this section does not exempt such person from complying with all other provisions of this section, such as insurance, leashing, etc. or all other sections of this article.

(l)    Non-residents — Any owner, keeper or harborer of a dangerous or vicious dog who does not reside within the city limits must still, when brought into the City, obey the above requirements as applicable; however, such non-residents are exempt from section (f) Liability Insurance, Surety Bond and (g) Mandatory Spaying or Neutering.

(Ord. 13176.  Passed 1-17-06.)


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