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Officials ponder proposed 'dog control' ordinance



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August 15, 2012 - It all started with a request from a resident for a barking dog ordinance and now, the Oxford Township Board is considering a "dog control" ordinance that encompasses a variety of canine-related issues.

The proposed ordinance covers barking – along with yelping, howling and crying – as originally intended.

However, the draft language also regulates dogs running at large, licensing, sanitation and confinement, leash requirements, abandoned or unwanted animals, reporting found dogs, aggressive or dangerous dogs, and dogs biting either people or other dogs.

"I think it's a good concept – we just may have to tweak it," said Treasurer Joe Ferrari. "I think it's something that's been needed for years."

"We covered a big area," said Trustee Sue Bellairs, who expressed her concern that the draft ordinance went well beyond the scope of barking dogs. "I just don't want to get something (on the books) that we're not going to be able to enforce again and it causes more problems."

Bellairs noted that although barking was the impetus for this proposed ordinance, it's not as if the township's been inundated with residents asking for this.

"We didn't receive tons of complaints; we received a couple," she said.

"We've had a bunch (of complaints) over the years, mostly for leash (issues) more so than barking dogs," responded Ferrari, who added that he's had problems with dogs "running loose" on the Polly Ann Trail coming up to his dog and starting fights.

Bellairs expressed her concern that the section concerning barking has some fairly broad language.

She noted how the language repeatedly states it applies to dog noises that "disturb the quiet of the neighborhood or any person." She wondered if a person hears one bark and it disturbs them, can they report it? Or if a person is bothered during their "noon nap," can they call it in?

"That whole section – every single sentence – is very subjective," she said.

Bellairs noted she understands people would be expected to exercise "common sense" with regard to applying the ordinance, but she feels that's in short supply these days.

"When you get McDonald's (being) sued because the coffee was hot, there is no common sense anymore," she said.

The trustee noted she understands how barking dogs can bother some people. "I've lived with barking dogs," Bellairs said. "That can definitely be a problem."

But she wants an ordinance that will "stick" with regard to enforcement.

Ferrari said he views this proposed ordinance as a way to help both residents and law enforcement officers.

"I think it just gives the police another tool to be able to control these types of situations," said the treasurer, who added "a lot of times" if the offender receives a warning letter about their violation and there's something on the books to back it up, that "usually takes care of the problem."

Township officials are expected to submit, in writing, their concerns and potential language changes, to Clerk Curtis Wright for discussion at the 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12 board meeting.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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