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Dog days of summer: Board discusses changes in ordinance

Complaints about barking dogs are ongoing and the Town Board is studying revisions to its Town Code to deal with the problem.

The problem surfaced at a board meeting last month when neighbors of a residence in the Center, which houses up to 14 dogs at a time, said they have been afflicted by dogs howling at all hours of the day and night.

“It’s torture,” one person told the board at the July meeting, about more than 20 years of dogs barking. 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 for such violations in six years, he said at last month’s meeting. Since then, tickets have been issued on a weekly basis.

Over six years there have been 83 calls to the police complaining of dogs barking. “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.”

During its Tuesday work session, board members discussed parts of the code that need to be revised to coordinate with New York State regulations, but also to crack down on dog owners who fail to respond to instructions from police and animal control officers when their pets are a nuisance to the community.

Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. said the board would be careful about not penalizing dog owners, or those fostering dogs, when their animals aren’t posing a problem.

For example, the Town Code was going to limit the number of dogs an owner or someone fostering dogs could have. But Animal Control Officer Beau Payne told the board he knew there were people fostering as many as five dogs and there were never problems reported. By limiting the number to two dogs, he would be placing these people into being non-compliant, something he thought was unwise.

On the other hand, there are people with two dogs who bark for long periods of time with owners who fail to stop them. Those are cases board members want to control, perhaps by raising the penalties for violations or, in the most serious cases, seizing the animals and impounding them while giving owners a period of time to remedy the situation or give up the animal.

Mr. DeStefano planned to tweak the draft further before scheduling it for a public hearing, possibly as soon as August 30.

In other business, the Town Board:
• Agreed to monitor Red Knot birds that are expected to land on the Island on their way to other climates, but not nest here. Suffolk County requires that the monitoring occur for seven days prior to dredging projects in Coecles Harbor and West Neck.
• Expects to offer drain maintenance services to Shelter Island Heights and Dering Harbor at the rate of $280 an hour. The cost back in 2015 was $240, but costs have gone up and the town is not looking to make a profit on the services, just to cover costs.