ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Commission updated an unenforced law that could have sent dog owners to jail if their dogs were caught defecating in someone else’s yard.
Most dog-related offenses in the county, except cases involving vicious dogs or cruelty against animals, were downgraded from class-B misdemeanors to infractions at the Washington County Commission meeting Tuesday.
The previous law automatically designated all dog-related offenses as class-B misdemeanors, so people could be punished for not placing tags on their dogs, allowing their dogs to defecate where they shouldn’t or not locking a female dog in a kennel when it’s in heat.
A class-B misdemeanor, which can carry punishments of a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail, is not an appropriate punishment for those kinds of offenses, deputy county attorney Eric Clarke told St. George News.
“We’re decriminalizing owning a dog,” Clarke said.
An issue with the previous law was raised when a woman was cited for her dog pooping in someone else’s yard. The woman attempted to pay the fine for her citation but couldn’t when she learned she was charged with a misdemeanor, which would have forced her to have a court appearance, justice court prosecutor Rachael Beckstrom said.
That incident was the first time the particular misdemeanor charge was brought against someone, Beckstrom said.
“I didn’t think a defecating dog should be punishable by jail time,” she said. “They should be able to go in and pay the ticket without having to come in and be on the record for their dog doing that.”
Beckstrom mentioned it to Clarke, who then brought it to the attention of the County Commission to be updated. It was important to keep cases involving vicious dogs or dog abuse as misdemeanors with a mandatory court appearance, which is why these crimes are not going to be infractions under the new law, Beckstrom said.
The County Commissioners unanimously approved the updated code, which commissioner Dean Cox jokingly referred to as the “pooper scooper ordinance.”
Other items at the County Commission meeting
The Hurricane Valley Fire Special Service District has now been expanded to include areas within Rockville and Springdale, after a resolution was passed by the County Commission Tuesday.
The move came after the County Commission approved a contract to replace the Rockville-Springdale Fire Protection District’s current staff with contracted employees from the Hurricane Valley Fire Special Services District earlier this year.
The Washington County Commission also approved a grant to create a full-time substance abuse treatment program for inmates at the Purgatory Correctional Facility. This program will be daily for the inmates in need of comprehensive treatment for abusing drugs or alcohol.
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