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By Carmen Ensinger
Winchester City Council, at the urging of its Animal Control Officer Leigh Winner, discussed, at length, enacting a city ordinance that would ban animals in Douglas Park (on the square) during any public gathering of more than 20 persons.
This would not apply to any service animal, such as a guide dog, or any animal trained or being trained as a hearing assistance animal or any animal trained for any physical, mental or intellectual disability.
Winner said that her concern stems from things she witnessed at last year’s carnival, with people bringing their pets to the carnival, specifically dogs.
“Unless they are raised in, or around a carnival, they are not used to carnival noises and, therefore, they get very nervous,” Winner said. “Then, you have kids coming up wanting to pet them and I’m afraid someone is going to get bit.”
Winner said last year she went so far as to ask someone to take their dog home because she could see that the dog was noticeably nervous.
“The dog had his ears back and I could tell he was not used to all of the noise and the people,” Winner said. “When it comes to animals, I can read them and I was afraid if that dog stayed there much longer, that something was going to happen, so I asked them to take him home and they complied.”
The proposed ordinance would not be new, but merely an amendment to the city’s current animal ordinance.
“I asked John Paul (City Attorney Coonrod) to draft this up for this meeting because the carnival is just around the corner,” Winner said. “I thought we should have something in place before the carnival.”
One of the aldermen asked who would be in charge of enforcing the ordinance during the carnival, and Winner said there is usually a police officer is present around the square during the carnival.
Coonrod said there could be a problem as far as enforcing the ordinance because, as written, the ordinance only covers “inside” Douglas Park and the carnival sets up in the road around the square and therefore the ordinance would not be valid.
“It really does no good to amend an ordinance if you are not going to have any way to enforce it,” Coonrod said.
After about a 25-minute discussion, it was decided not to vote on the amendment and let good judgment be the rule of the day rather than banning animals from all events in Douglas Park.
Anyone attending any events in Winchester are asked to leave their pets at home when attending these events. As the city’s animal control officer, Winner has the authority to tell the owner to take the animal home. She and law enforcement officials will be monitoring events and any animals that might be present at these events and if they show any signs of nervousness, their owners will be asked to take the animal home.