On August 13, 2014

Town of Killington mulls change to dog ordinance

By Stephen Seitz

KILLINGTON – Thanks to a rise in dog nuisance incidents, Killington’s board of selectmen spent most of their regular Aug. 5 meeting discussing what changes, if any, need to be made to the town’s current animal control ordinance.

“We have seen an increase in the number of incidents with dogs since the beginning of this year,” Town Manager Seth Webb told the board. “We wanted to put this on the agenda tonight to better understand what the problem has been and to hear from the police department, and perhaps to take a look at our existing dog ordinance to see if there are improvements we could make.”

Killington Police Chief Whit Montgomery said he’d like the current ordinance made a little more clear.

“Under the ordinance we have now,” he said,  “dogs have to be under the verbal command of their owners at all times, but everyone has a different definition of verbal command and verbal control. One way to make it black and white is to institute a leash law where if the dog’s not on personal property, it’s to be controlled by a leash. This past year, it seems that dog bites against other dogs have gone up, as well as some other nuisance-type stuff, and loose dog complaints. It’s amazing, the number of calls we’re getting just for dogs running at large.”

Chairwoman Patty McGrath wanted to know how this would affect dog owners like herself.

“Being the owner of two dogs we like to take out for hikes, my question would be, is that on specific town property, or anywhere in the town of Killington?” she asked.

“We would exclude private property and vehicles, so if you bring your dog off private property for a walk on the road, it would have to be on a leash,” Montgomery replied.

Selectman Chris Bianchi said the current ordinance already covered these incidents.

“We already have the ordinance which covers the leash law,” he said. “It’s just a matter of enforcing it. I don’t think every owner and dog should be required to change when everything’s fine because of the behavior of a few. A dog that’s thoroughly trained and under the command of its owner is not running at large.”

“If the owner loses control of the dog and there’s no leash on him, it could be something much worse than another dog getting attacked,” Montgomery said. “The proposed change would have the dog leashed only on public property.”

“I might be more inclined to consider that if we designated certain public properties, like the rec center,” replied Bianchi. “Walking along River Road, maybe that’s an appropriate place to have a leash on, because there’s a lot of traffic and a lot of walkers. But out where I live, where there’s not a lot of traffic, it just seems like overkill. I just can’t see having it be town-wide.”

McGrath agreed.
“I think you’re going to see pushback from people who use the golf course in the wintertime,” she said. “It’s so known as a dog park, that the last day of golfing is, ‘invite your dog.’ I agree with Chris, though. I think we could designate specific areas, particularly areas that are likely to have a large number of people, especially children.”

Resident Roz Jackson said she had a specific problem in mind.

“Our neighbor next door has five pit bulls, and none of you are talking about breed. Most dogs are great and they can be free. But five of them living in a house is a gang. They attacked someone and almost killed his dog, because that girl could not control her dogs.”

McGrath said, “You’re talking about pit bulls, but in all honesty, it could be any dog.”

“There are some breeds that are more likely to attack,” said Jackson. “In Broward County and Dade County in Florida, they have banned pit bulls totally. They’ve killed people after having been their pets for six or seven years. They’ve killed other pets. Five is like a wolf pack. You cannot have five in a house. That could be some kind of a law, no more than a certain number of certain breeds. That could be a good law,” she suggested.

Bianchi said there were certain actions Jackson could take if she wanted something done.

“The ordinance covers that, not just pit bulls, but any vicious dog,” he said. “If a complaint was brought to the selectboard, the board could investigate, hold a hearing, and issue an order that those dogs be confined. You should document the date, time, how many dogs, and the type of dog, and email that to the board. Then, you’ve filed a formal complaint to the board, and action starts.”

After the discussion, the board decided to consider amending the ordinance to designate certain leash-only areas for dogs.

“That would allow us to put up some ‘dog on leash’ signs, which is a great way of public education,” Bianchi said. “It’s not just a free-for-all in town, there actually is an ordinance.”

The board stopped short of taking any action until a future meeting.

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