GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 29, 2013

Essex eyes tighter reins on animal control

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ESSEX — Town voters at the Annual Town Meeting May 6 will not only face budget questions and a variety of issues regarding residents and property; they’ll be asked to approve changes affecting the town‘s four-legged residents, as well.

Under a bylaw proposing changes to the Essex’s animal control bylaw, dogs would not be allowed in the same places during certain times of the year in town.

The article proposes that any dog deemed by the animal control officer as a threat or roaming at large will be held for seven days, while the owner or keeper must also pay $40 for each day the dog is held. If the animal is not claimed by seven days, it would either be euthanized or adopted.

The current animal control bylaw makes no reference to adoption.

The article also proposes that any dog 6 months or older must be licensed, granting pet owners more leeway. The current law states any dog 3 months or older must be licensed, with the fees for licensing remaining the same.

However, according to the warrant article, anyone owning more than four dogs three months or older at a single location must apply for a kennel license.

The proposed bylaw would be more specific in terms of kennel licenses, ranging from personal kennels to commercial, breeding and veterinary kennels.

The laws will remain the same in terms of how a dangerous or viscous dog is defined — through state law.

Both the proposed and current bylaw would allow for a hearing to take place if the owner or keeper of a dog disagrees with a declaration that the dog is vicious or dangerous. The Board of Selectmen have the ability to reserve or back up any decision made by the animal control officer.

Randi Cohen, the executive director for the Salem-based Northeast Animal Shelter said that, as a “no-kill” center, that facility does not accept dogs that are labeled as vicious or dangerous.

The warrant article would also increase the fines through non-criminal disposition if a dangerous or vicious dog escapes

The current bylaw states there is a fine of $50 a day per violation, the new would enact a written warning on the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $300 for any third and subsequent offense in a one year period.

The new bylaw, however, does not include provisions for a leash law. Essex is one of relatively few municipalities across the state that does not require dogs to be restrained by their owners on a leash or otherwise.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.