City to List Dogs That Attack

By Kirstin Downey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Alexandria City Council unanimously approved joining a state dangerous-dog registry yesterday that allows residents to go online to see whether they live near a canine that has bitten or attacked a person or another animal.

The vote allows the city to take advantage of a 2006 state law that permits local governments to post information on the state-created registry, a development similar to public listings of addresses of sex offenders. More than 40 dogs from Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties have been placed on the state list since it was launched in July.

A dog is added to the list only if a general district court has made a ruling on a case and declared the animal "dangerous." Most cases involve dogs biting people or other dogs or killing cats.

Alexandria officials decided to join the state registry after an attack on a six-pound Yorkshire terrier by a 60-pound hound in July at a city dog park.

The hound picked up the smaller dog in its mouth and vigorously shook it, causing it to suffer severe lacerations and a broken back, and leaving the 6-year-old terrier named Emily partially paralyzed, said owner Tracy Compton.

"The only chance we have to make sure that people know how this dog can snap on a moment's notice is to have it declared dangerous," said Compton, who tearfully spoke about the incident before the council vote. She said she and her husband have spent $13,000 on veterinarian bills.

Alexandria Council member Justin Wilson (D) said he introduced the ordinance to join the registry after learning about the incident and confirming the details.

"That unfortunate situation will make progress for everyone else," Wilson said.

The Compton case was adjudicated by the Arlington County District Court, and the hound was ruled Feb. 4 to be dangerous. Court records indicate that the dog is owned by Melody Abella of Arlington. She could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The state law was enacted in 2006 after a Spotsylvania County woman was killed in a dog attack.

Compton said she pushed for Alexandria to join the registry because she thinks other pets and people are in danger. She said she has witnessed attacks by dogs at dog parks, including a recent incident in which a 90-pound German shepherd attacked a 12-pound Yorkshire terrier.

The vote was significant in part because dog owners have become an influential political lobby in Alexandria and elsewhere.

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