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Dog days — and nights: Board hears of years of constant barking

Barking, howling, yelping, whining — constantly — for years.

That’s what neighbors of a residence in the Center, that houses up to 14 dogs at a time, say they have been afflicted with, and they brought their case to Tuesday’s Town Board work session.

“It’s torture,” one person told the board about more than 20 years of dogs barking day and night. A man who manages a business nearby said the same, and they were backed up by Police Chief Jim Read. Chief Read’s department has written 23 tickets in six years, he said, and four in the last week.

Over six years there have been 83 calls complaining. The chief said the objective is to rectify the situation, and not write tickets, but nothing seems to be working.

“This isn’t normal,” one neighbor put in. “It’s at a scale most people would not believe. It can go on for hours all night.”

The case has gone to the Shelter Island Justice Court, but both Judges — Judge Mary-Faith Westervelt and Judge Helen Rosenblum — have recused themselves and the case is being heard in East Hampton. Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. said he didn’t “want to get too deep into specifics” of why the judges referred the case to East Hampton.

After the meeting, Mr. DeStefano told the Reporter that the judges’ recused themselves after motions by the defendant. He wasn’t aware of the reasoning behind Judge Rosenblum’s recusal, but the defendant claimed that Judge Westervelt “could not be fair because of prior dealings at the library,” Mr. DeStefano said. “It was a close decision, but judges generally err on the side of caution regarding recusals.”

The chief and neighbors of the residence reiterated that it wasn’t just an occasional bit of barking, but something that is relentless and troubling. There were suggestions by neighbors that there was abuse of the animals.

Councilman Paul Shepherd, who said he has known the woman who keeps the dogs for 45 years, said she houses rescue dogs. He said the dogs are well fed and cared for.

But this was disputed by the neighbors. One said: “This is not happy barking.”
Suggestions were aired, including rewriting town law on dogs making a disturbance.

The Town Code now says: “No person shall cause, suffer, allow or permit any pet dog to create a noise disturbance across a real property line … a noise disturbance from a barking dog shall be a dog barking continuously for a period of time deemed appropriate by the [Animal] Control Officer.”

Mr. DeStefano said that it shouldn’t be left up to an officer’s discretion, but an actual time frame be included, such as persistent barking for 10 or 15 minutes. He added that other municipalities have laws that, if someone is in constantly violation of the ordinance, the dog or dogs can be taken by officers.

Mr. Shepherd asked how many other complaints of barking dogs have been registered for other locations. Chief Read said all other calls have been successfully answered and problems solved. “This is an odd case, “ he added, noting that “we write laws for the very few.”

Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams said the board should explore a time limit in the law and if fines don’t work, something might be written to remove animals if the law is ignored.

Councilman Jim Colligan said a list of possible solutions should be drawn up and discussed for actions to be taken.

In other business: Dangerous corners for drivers in Silver Beach will get a make over. Mr. Colligan and several residents said a tragedy was waiting to happen on Brander Parkway and Peconic Avenue, and where Brander Parkway curves and intersects with East Brander Parkway. Both corners have blind spots, and both have yield signs. Highway Superintendent Brian Sherman said the corners will have stop signs installed.

• The Town Board will raise spending for the Information Technology Committee (ITC) to pay a computer consultant for more hours. Ms. Brach-Williams, who is the board’s liaison to the committee, said the ITC wants $16,800 to have an eight-hour-a-week schedule for the consultant, when the original budget called for four hours a week.

Chief Read, who chairs the ITC, said after the investment in technology, it’s vital to correctly manage systems and continue to grow new systems, including cyber security.

There’s also a need to provide improved public accessibility of records and actions without opening all of the new system to the public, since it contains some information that should rightfully be kept private. That includes communication among staff members about negotiations for land purchases, personnel matters and private financial information that taxpayers provide.

• On the issue of registering with the town if residents intend to rent their properties, Code Enforcement Officer Arthur Bloom told the board that he had sent out 130 letters to owners of residential properties who have advertised to rent their places on the internet.

• Ms. Brach-Williams pointed out that the Taylor’s Island Foundation, which is holding its annual Kettle Clambake fundraiser August 10, had decorated the meeting room at Town Hall with photos and art work about the Island.

There will be an opening to the public of the exhibition with refreshments on Friday, July 12 from 1 to 3 p.m.