Fairfax City has been going to the dogs, in the opinion of the city's animal warden Lou C. Frank. At least, that's the impression he gave the City Council last week when the council again took up--and put off--a proposed dog leash law.
The city is the only Northern Virginia jurisdiction without a law requiring a dog to be on a leash whenever it is off its owner's property.
In January, because of the area's rabies outbreak, the council enacted a 30-day emergency leash law to cut down on the number of loose dogs in the city.
But that expired Feb. 11 and the council last week failed to muster enough votes to extend it for another 30 days while it considers a permanent law.
The council unanimously put off consideration of the permanent law until its meeting Tuesday. If an ordinance is passed, a public hearing on the issue probably would be set for March 22.
"Leash laws have a history of controversy in the city," Councilman Robert F. Lederer Jr. said last week as he and two other council members voted against extending the temporary leash law. Although it passed 4-3, it lacked the necessary two-thirds majority to become law.
Under present animal laws, dogs may run loose in the city if they are within voice control of "a responsible person."
Frank and the city staff proposed the leash law, in face of council reluctance, as a health and safety measure. Frank contends it will help prevent loose dogs coming in contact with rabid wild animals, and subsequently posing a threat to humans.
In the past 10 months, 18 rabid raccoons have been found in the city and six dogs had known contact with them. Five were put in quarantine and the sixth, a great white Pyrenees, was put to death "because the owners said they couldn't afford the 30-day quarantine," said Frank. Two of the dogs were unvaccinated and are in six-months quarrantine. The other vaccinated dogs are in 30-day quarantine.
Roaming and unvaccinated dogs have been a problem in the city, says Frank, who last year captured more than 450 loose dogs, most of them unlicensed and unvaccinated. Vaccination is a prerequsite for getting a license in the city.
Just over 1,000 city dogs were licensed in 1982, and only 600 so far in 1983, although the deadline passed Jan. 31. Frank estimates there are about 2,000-2,500 dogs in the city, which means there are more than 1,000 unlicensed dogs, which may or may not be vaccinated, he said.
Frank was criticized by some local officials last week for telling a newspaper reporter it is "assinine" for the city not to have a leash law.
An animal warden for less than two years, the ex-Marine has been aggressive in lobbying for the leash law as well as rounding up strays. But he is considered a softy when it comes to animals.
His own family pet is a blind poodle which he adopted from the city shelter. "It was scheduled to be put to sleep and I couldn't handle it and took him home."