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Town attorney clarifies controversial dog law

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO

Despite stories in the Reporter, legal advertisements of the town’s revised Dog Law and discussions of it at public meetings, there are some who have been spreading rumors about the law, mistakenly stating information that is incorrect about changes. At the request of Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. and as a public service, what follows is Mr. DeStefano’s summary of the changes to the law:

Definitions

A number of definitions were added for the purpose of consistency with the New York State Agriculture and Market’s Law including definitions of a “Companion Animal or Pet,” “Dangerous Dog” farm animal”, “Animal Rescue Operation” and “Foster Home.”

Licensing

Veterinarians, animal hospitals and foster homes are now exempted from the licensing requirements, and licenses from any competent jurisdiction will now be honored, not just those from New York City.

Running at Large

Dogs are no longer specifically required to be leashed or muzzled. They must be under the reasonable control of their owner.

Dangerous or biting dogs

The requirements for how to handle a case where a dog bites a human or another pet is set forth in the State Agriculture and Markets law. Our existing language was inconsistent with that and thus, illegal. The new statute was updated to comply with state requirements.

Excessive barking was renamed but it was formerly Noise disturbances

We have been advised by two different judges on cases before them that the provision giving the Police and animal control officer discretion over the amount of time at which barking became “unreasonable” was improper. This was replaced with the current time limits: 10 minutes continuously, which was the internal standard that the police were already using or 15 minutes or more over a half hour period.

Seizure of Dogs

As with the “Dangerous Dog” provision, law and procedure for the seizure of dogs, it is set forth in the State Agriculture and Market’s Law. Our current Town Code is again insufficient under the state code and the changes made are to make it compliant.  We have added the further protection that if a dog is to be seized from private property it must be pursuant to a warrant issued by a judge. We have also added clear provisions for retrieving seized dogs.

Fees

No fees were changed.

Penalties

Increasing fines were added for multiple offenses within one year. No change was made regarding potential jail time which remains at 15 days, which is standard throughout the Town Code.

THIS LAW DOES NOT PROVIDE FOR OR CHANGE THE PROCEDURE FOR EUTHENIZING DOGS! That can and must only be done pursuant to state law and only where 1.The dog is deemed a “Dangerous Dog” by a court; 2. The dog causes serious physical injury or death to a person, companion/farm/domestic animal; and 3. A judge orders such euthanasia.

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