The Alexandria City Council opted Saturday to rescind a recent amendment to the city’s leash laws mandating dogs be physically constrained in public.
The updated code, created in response to concerns from Animal Control officers, made using electronic collars as the sole means of restraining a dog illegal.
“I don’t think we made a bad decision,” Vice Mayor Kerry Donley said. “We might not have made totally the best decision.”
Members of the city’s dog community hit council with a wave of letters and emails in response to the initial change.
Sandy Mejias, co-owner of the Olde Town School for Dogs, said at Saturday’s public hearing that dog owners spend a lot of time, money and effort to train their dogs on electronic collars.
“The equipment that is used is only as good as the person who is operating it,” she said.
Mejias said the ordinance also prevented her business from conducting off-leash training classes.
Donely suggested city staff meet with the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria and citizen stakeholders to go over the ordinance before bringing it back to council in March. He mentioned entering language allowing exceptions for professional dog-training schools.
When the ordinance was approved in November, Animal Control Director Joy Wilson said her department experienced several cases in which electric collars failed to prevent dogs from scampering into roadways or chasing other animals, specifically in Old Town's Founders Park.
Councilman Rob Krupicka said revising the ordinance is the right step, but he didn’t think going back to the old language of the code was the best answer. He said Animal Control and others offered legitimate reasons for suggesting changes in the first place.
“We want to make sure we are going to be thoughtful and considerate of the dog owners but also of the folks who are using our parks and public spaces and don’t know if a dog has an electric collar, don’t know if they’re being managed properly and may have concerns about walking through a public space because a dog appears to be off a leash, appears to be out of control,” he said.