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November 2, 2013

Council eyes fresh look at city's dog laws

A City Council subcommittee is calling for an increase in fines for violations of Gloucester’s dog restraint ordinance, and the full council is set to hold a hearing on the issue on Nov. 12, a week after Tuesday’s city elections.

But a city councilor who’s been at the forefront of the issue says he’ll be asking the city to hold off taking that step until officials can take a broader look at the full city ordinance.

Current Ward 5 Councilor Greg Verga said there has been some confusion about what is being suggested, and what was passed years ago. That’s why he took to Facebook, a local message board, and has been fielding constituent questions to set the record straight on what the law already states, and what is being suggested.

He said the issue arose when he got a constituent call from a woman who was walking her leashed dog at Stage Fort Park — next to the newly opened the Gloucester Dog Park — when two larger, unleashed dogs started trouble with the smaller canine.

According to the constituent, the owner of the larger two dogs was less than friendly about the incident, Verga related.

With that, Verga requested a review of the ordinance by the City Council’s subcommittee on Ordinance and Administration, chaired by Sefatia Romeo Theken, with at-large councilor Bob Whynott and Ward 3’s Steve LeBlanc as members. And that panel’s recommendation came back calling for an undefined increase to the fines for a variety of violations.

But Verga hopes that all aspects of the city’s dog ordinance can instead be brought up for review — including a longstanding, and oft-ignored, mandate that all dogs be kept on a six-foot leash.

“We should take all the testimony from both sides — all the input — have another review, and take it from there,” he said.

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