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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

City Dog Bylaws Likely By Month's End

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, March 01, 2006

North Adams - If approved during a March 14 City Council meeting, a comprehensive ordinance that governs dogs will be in place just in time for the arrival of spring weather and a seasonal outdoor increase in the visibility of canines.

Councilors passed the ordinance through a first reading during a Feb. 28 meeting and are expected to vote on the measure at the next meeting.

Timing Is Right

Council President Gailanne Cariddi spent much of the past six months researching and drafting an ordinance that would protect the public while creating a fair environment for dog owners, she said. The matter of a dog ordinance has been a council focus for several months and the continued conversation was deliberate, Cariddi said during a March 1 interview.

"One of the motives in taking so long was to make people aware of a dog ordinance," she said. "I think the timing is right for this."

"Dangerous" or "Potentially Dangerous"

Included in the proposed ordinance is a "dangerous dog" definition, which defines a dangerous dog as one that has bitten or attempted to bite or attack a person. Also at risk for a dangerous dog designation are specific canines "with a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack, cause injury to,or otherwise threaten the safety of domestic animals.Any dog, whether leashed or not which, in a vicious manner approaches any person in an apparent attitude of attack upon the streets, sidewalk,s or any public grounds or places."

Dogs considered to be "at large" are defined as "a dog unaccompanied by a person of adequate age and discretion to properly control its' actions and is unrestrained by a leash or chain not exceeding six feet in length."

"Potentially dangerous dogs " are identified as "any dog that is impounded or its owners cited for allowing a dog to run off leash two or more times in a 12 month period or any dog that acts in a highly aggressive manner when unprovoked. Vocalization or barking without more aggressive behavior shall not cause a dog to be deemed of a highly aggressive manner. determination that a dog is potentially dangerous under this section of shall be in the discretion of the Animal Control Officer and the Animal Control officer shall notify the owner of any such determination."

An investigation will be conducted before a dog is declared "dangerous" or "potentially dangerous." A signed citizen complaint or a request by an animal control officer or police officer may launch an investigation and investigations will be assigned or conducted by the public safety commissioner. "No dog shall be declared dangerous or potentially dangerous if the threat, injury, or damage was sustained to a person committing a crime or was provoked by a person abusing the dog or other animal," according to the proposed bylaw.

Several Possible Actions

Dogs deemed "dangerous" or "potentially dangerous" may be ordered restrained or controlled in a manner that keeps the dog from leaving the owner's property, and fences known as "radio fence" will not be considered as an acceptable restraint. "Dangerous" or "potentially dangerous" dogs may also be ordered to wear a muzzle and leash when away from the property that houses them.

Dangerous dogs may be banished from the city or ordered euthanized, under the terms of the proposed law.

The owners of dogs declared "dangerous" must post a warning sign that reads "Warning, Dangerous Dog" at a visible location on their property.

The owners of dogs declared "dangerous" or "potentially dangerous" must notify property abutters and those who reside across a street of the designation and must pay the cost of the notification, under the proposed bylaw.

Leash Law

The proposed ordinance states that dogs cannot run loose on city streets or the property of others without consent of the property owner. Loose or at large dogs may be picked up by the animal control officer, a police officer, or a representative of the city and impounded at a city dog pound, placed in care of a licensed kennel, or a "domestic charitable corporation incorporated exclusively for the purpose of protecting animals from cruelty, neglect, or abuse."

Dogs that are loose but cannot be seized safely may be destroyed by an animal control officer, a police officer, or a representative of the city, under the terms of the proposed bylaw.

"Nuisance" Dogs

Any dog owner or keeper who intentionally permits a dog to create a barking, howling, or other nuisance that is disruptive to a neighborhood or an "annoyance" to a seriously ill person "shall be deemed a public nuisance and shall be governed by the provisions of [existing city bylaw] Chapter 29."

Any female dog that is not spayed must be confined or physically restrained during an estrus period, also known as being "in heat."
Dogs may be impounded if found unlicensed,for biting, injuring, or otherwise harming a person, or if found loose.

An animal control officer may remove a dog from its premises and take it to a veterinarian, if, in the opinion of the officer, a medical emergency affecting the dog exists or the dog is living in unsanitary, unsafe, or abusive conditions; an officer may opt to request a veterinarian evaluation at the dog's premises. The dog owner or keeper will be responsible for any veterinary fees, under the terms of the proposed bylaw.

Impounded Dogs

In situations involving an impounded dog, an animal control officer must notify the dog owner that the dog has been impounded no later than three days after the action. If a dog's owner is unknown or unable to be contacted, a written notice describing the dog and the place and time of the pick-up must be posted at the public postings area of City Hall.

Dogs that remain unclaimed after a 10-day period "shall be disposed of," according to the proposed bylaw. No unclaimed dog will be turned over to any medical or research entity for purposes of experimentation. Any dog owner who ignores notification of an impounded dog and fails to claim the dog within 10 days will be fined $100. The fine revenues will be used to pay for the dog's board and disposal costs.

Dog owners who claim an impounded dog will be made to pay a $20 per day fee for each day the dog spent at the pound. Any associated fees, such as veterinarian bills or fines must be paid before the dog will be released, under the terms of the proposed bylaw.
Dog owners or "keepers" must prevent dogs from defecating on private or public property unless prepared to dispose of the leavings in a sanitary manner.

Dog licenses are available at the City Clerk's office.

City Dogs MUST Be Licensed

For 2006, dog licenses will be available beginning March 15 and the licenses will be valid until Dec. 31, said City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau.

Approval of the proposed bylaw will mean that beginning in 2007, the dog licensing period will be January 1 to Dec. 31. Dogs that are not spayed or neutered will be licensed at a cost of $20, while dogs that have been spayed or neutered will be licensed at a cost of $8. Replacement dog license tags will cost $5. Late fees will be imposed on dogs that are not licensed by May 1.

Kennel licenses for kennels that host a maximum of four dogs is $30; 10-dog kennel licenses cost $60.

A valid rabies inoculation certificate with an expiration date must be presented in order for a dog license to issue. Those licensing a dog for the first time must provide proof of spaying or neutering at the initial licensing.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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