By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
GREENVILLE — The Greenville Town Council tabled a proposed local law regulating the activities of dogs in the town.
A public hearing Aug. 21 was adjourned and will be continued at the town board’s Sept. 18 meeting so changes can be made to the proposed law.
Local Law No. 2 of 2023 aims to strengthen enforcement of existing town laws and clarify regulations related to the ownership and activities of dogs.
“The purpose of this is to bring our dog law into compliance with the rules and regulations of Ag and Markets,” said Town Supervisor Paul Macko, referring to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
“They changed the rules and it’s very important to keep up with the times,” Macko continued. “This dog law mirrors all of the rules and regulations and puts us into compliance with what Ag and Markets recommends that all towns have as far as licensing, regulating and controlling the activities of dogs.”
One of the regulations that needed to be tightened up was enforcement of citations issued by the town’s dog control officer, who works for both Greenville and Westerlo.
“Where we are finding shortfalls is when he cites people for not having their dogs under control, they go to court downstairs and it goes nowhere,” Macko said. “So, this tightens up a lot of that court stuff to bring people into compliance.”
Proposal of the new law was also spurred by complaints from residents that unleashed dogs were chasing and harassing people.
“We have had a couple of areas in the town where they have had a pack of dogs that have come through the woods for miles and chasing people on bicycles and people walking their dogs,” Macko said. “The problem has eased quite a bit but initially there was quite a problem with dogs from miles away.”
Under town law, all dogs ages four months and older must be licensed and vaccinated against rabies. Dogs must also be kept under control and must not “engage in habitual loud howling, barking or whining, or to conduct itself in such a manner as to habitually annoy any person other than the owner” of the dog, according to the proposed law.
Penalties were already in place for dog owners who do not comply with the law, but the town had difficulty enforcing the regulations, and the new law is designed to strengthen enforcement.
The law also adds a section about dogs deemed dangerous and specifies that dogs need to be kept under control.
Resident Will Bardell asked for the board to clarify what is mean by “habitual” barking.
“How is ‘habitually’ defined? Is it completely at the discretion of the dog control officer as far as at what point does barking become an annoyance, or is it defined somewhere by some quantifiable measure?” Bardell asked.
Town attorney Tal Rappleyea responded that it will be determined by the dog control officer.
“That is going to be at the discretion of the dog control officer,” Rappleyea said. “He is aware of how dogs act and react, and if it’s something that is an annoyance, then he will cite them.”
Another resident also asked for clarification on how “habitual” is defined and said that at one point, it was discussed that 10 minutes of barking would be the threshold. He also questioned how the law would be enforced if barking took place during late night or early morning hours and the dog control officer is not present.
“A couple of months ago it was mentioned that it would be 10 minutes, which would seem it is an annoyance or habitual,” the resident said. “If we don’t want to be vague then there needs to be a time in the law and 10 minutes was mentioned that it would be included in this. Also, video or audio supporting a 10-minute claim.”
Rappleyea said video or audio recordings of barking or howling could be shown to the dog control officer to reinforce a complaint but would not be admissible in court.
The town attorney also reiterated that it would be up to the dog control officer to determine if barking is habitual, but that the town board could add a time limit to the law.
The board decided to make the change and adjourned the public hearing.
The hearing will resume at the board’s Sept. 18 meeting at 6:30 p.m.