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Town adopts new dog control law

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

The town of Greenville adopted a new law regulating dog ownership at the September town board meeting. Courtesy of Unsplash

GREENVILLE — The town council adopted a new dog control law at the board’s Sept. 18 meeting.

The aim of Local Law #2 of 2023 is to give some teeth to the existing dog law already on the books and to comply with state dog laws under New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets regulations.

The local law was adopted after a public hearing in August was adjourned and continued in September following questions from residents about issues including how dogs are deemed dangerous and what constitutes “habitual barking” violations.

A resident at the September public hearing asked for clarification on what pet owners with dogs that have been deemed dangerous are required to do to contain the animal, and how deep a property’s fence needs to be to comply with the law.

“It has to be as deep as is required to keep the dog from escaping,” town attorney Tal Rappleyea said. “There is no way you can say 3 inches because some big dogs can get under that. If you say 6 feet, that is kind of unreasonable. It has to be designed for the situation to make sure that that particular animal cannot escape.”

Another resident asked about how “habitual barking,” which is not permitted, is determined. He asked whether the dog control officer would be required to remain at the property to see if the dog is barking for at least 10 minutes, and whether the complainant could provide audio recordings of the dog barking to prove their claim.

Rappleyea said putting a time limit in the law would complicate matters. Rather, the determination is left up to the discretion of the dog control officer whether to issue a violation.

“It works everywhere else,” Rappleyea said. “If we start getting into that kind of definition, it will make it impossible for the dog control officer to handle it because then he has to be there at 1 in the morning, he will have to be there for 10 minutes, he will have to witness it. We can do it, but my recommendation is that we don’t.”

Town Supervisor Paul Macko asked dog control officer Justin Case if he listens to recordings taken by complainants to prove that a dog is barking habitually.

“I have never listened to recordings,” Case said. “Usually, if there is a dog that is habitually barking it is not only at night — it is through the day also.”

The resident said that in his case, the neighbor’s dog barks at night after the owner has left the home and left the dog outside.

“So how am I going to get the DCO (dog control officer) to come out there at 1 in the morning? Is the DCO going to do that and what if they don’t?”

Case, who has also been the dog control officer in neighboring Westerlo for several years, said that he typically asks around to other neighbors to determine if barking is habitual.

Under Greenville’s new law, the determination of “habitual barking” is made at the dog control officer’s discretion.

“The 10 minutes of barking I firmly believe is at the discretion of the dog control officer and how many times he has to come out and deal with the same dog,” Town Supervisor Paul Macko said. “If you put 10 minutes into the law and the dog barks for nine minutes, then what do you do?”

Under the new town law, all dogs over the age of four months are also required to be licensed by the town.

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