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Dog-confining proposal shelved.

Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

WORCESTER - A proposal that would have required dog owners to confine their pets on private property either by leash or a fence was shelved by the City Council Public Health and Human Services Committee last night.

By a 3-0 vote, the committee effectively disposed of an ordinance amendment prepared by the city administration, at the request of the council, in response to complaints about dogs allowed to roam off their owner's property.

Under current city ordinance, leashing of dogs is only required when the dog is off the owner's premises; they are allowed to remain unleashed on private property as long as they don't pose a danger or nuisance to the public.

Some city councilors felt the extension of the leash/confinement requirement to private property might be appropriate because dogs left outside on the owner's premises could be free to leave the boundaries of private property and do harm to individuals and property.

Leominster is the only community in the state to have such an ordinance.

But city animal control officers and a police official told the committee last night they do not feel such an amendment was necessary here because existing laws already allow them to effectively respond to those problems.

Steven T. Donahue, the city's chief animal control officer, said the problem of loose dogs roaming about neighborhoods is well under control. He said his office does receive complaints about loose dogs, and they average about five to 10 a week at the most.

He added that a vast majority of all the dogs create no problems and stay on their own property.

"We feel we have the loose dog problem under control," Mr. Donahue said. "We do not see this as a problem. Loose dog complaints are being responded to and the existing (ordinances) allow us to deal with those dogs that pose a danger or roam off their property."

Patrick J. Cherry, an animal control officer, pointed out that officers already have the authority to require owners to restrain their dog on private property, if there is a problem with them. He added that if a dog owner receives three fines during the course of a year for a loose dog, they could have the dog taken away.

Councilor-at-Large Frederick C. Rushton and District 4 Councilor Barbara G. Haller felt there was some merit to the proposed amendment, saying people should be able to walk out of their home and not have to worry about being intimidated by an animal. But Councilor-at-Large Gary Rosen, committee chairman, questioned why an ordinance would be needed to restrain dogs that have created no problems.

"Why go after 99 percent (of the dogs) if only 1 percent is the problem?" Mr. Rosen asked. "It seems to me that this ordinance is barking up the wrong tree."

After being convinced that the city already has the tools in place to address roaming dogs, Mr. Rushton and Ms. Haller voted with Mr. Rosen in disposing of the ordinance amendment.

Mr. Rushton agreed it would unnecessarily put a vast net over too many dogs.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 3, 2009
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