On the evening of June 15, 2012 Alexandria Animal Control Officer Doug Gudakunst responded to a dog bite report near the intersection of Route 1 and E. Duncan Avenue. According to the official Animal Welfare League of Alexandria Animal Control report, the complainant while walking their dog on a leash, noticed an off-leash dog approaching. Two additional off-leash dogs appeared. In a flash, one of the three off-leash dogs attacked the leashed dog. Attempting to break-up the fight, the complainant received a bite on the wrist from one of the off-leash dogs.
Officer Gudakunst tracked the owner of the attacking dog, verified the report, and confirmed all three dogs were wearing electronic collars. Gudakunst informed the offender he did not consider electronic collars to be a form of physical restraint. Confirming the dogs were current on their Rabies vaccinations, which is required by law, Gudakunst arranged for home quarantine.
“Without language specifically addressing e-collars,” says Patrick Cole, Animal Welfare League of Alexandria Director of Communications and Outreach, “enforcement was based on the animal control officer’s interpretation of the law. “Dog owners would challenge citations for running at large knowing a judge may interpret the law differently.”
At a Public Hearing on June 16, 2012, the Alexandria City Council voted unanimously and adopted an ordinance to exclude electronic collars and other similar devices as legal methods to physically restrain dogs in public.
“Now, it is clear that electronic collars are not considered physical restraint,” Patrick says. “The ordinance clearly states where and when electronic collars can be used.”
The sale and use of electronic collars, a.k.a. Shock Collars, as a training tool during sanctioned obedience training classes and field trials, and on private property is still legal; however all dogs must be restrained by a physical leash in public. Alexandria residents and visitors may use electronic collars and other training devices in any of Alexandria’s official, fenced and unfenced, off-leash dog exercise areas.
“The ordinance removes all ambiguity,” Patrick states, “and makes it easier for Animal Control to efficiently preserve public and canine safety.”
Full enforcement of the new law begins on September 1, 2012. Until that time, Alexandria Animal Control Officers will issue warnings to violators and encourage compliance. With cooperation between the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria and City of Alexandria an outreach program is in effect. Once the law is official on September 1, dogs wearing electronic collars in public will be considered Running at Large. Owners will be cited and fined up to $100.