BERLIN – Berlin needs to get serious about dangerous dogs and loud vehicle noise, according to West St. resident Pete Cosby, who called for heftier fines for offenders.
On Memorial Day, a dog bit Cosby’s daughter’s boyfriend as he rode a bike along West St. The dog, a Labrador retriever, has been involved in a prior attack, Cosby said, and the owner had been cited several times for not keeping his dog on a leash.
Cosby, chair of the town’s planning commission, said he has lived on the street for 26 years and has been fighting dog issues the entire time.
“This is a rude world that’s getting ruder,” said Cosby. “This town is a dog kennel now.”
The town needs to get serious about fines, Cosby said. His scheme for new fines would start with $500 for the first incident and go up by $500 for each additional citation, with the second and third times costing the offender $1,000 and $1,500, and so on.
“They’re totally underfined,” Cosby said. “Dog owners have got to start getting the message.”
Police Chief Arnold Downing agreed, saying, “The fine in our opinion should be increased.” Currently, the town code limits fines to $400 maximum.
Berlin has no leash law. Dog owners are permitted to allow the dog off their property, unleashed, as long as they have the canine under control.
“A dog off the property biting someone is definitely not in control,” said Downing. “Biting, that’s criminal. We file criminal charges.”
Charges have been filed against the owner of the dog involved in the Memorial Day biting incident.
Not all dog owners are at fault, Cosby acknowledged.
“When you’ve got a bad dog, you’ve usually got a bad owner,” Cosby said.
Council Vice President Gee Williams said he would like the council to consider increased fines.
Cosby asked that any changes clearly include penalties for barking dogs.
Downing said that dog noise was already tied together with the rest of the dog control law.
Town attorney Dave Gaskill said he look into the legal aspects of raising the fines.
As for a leash law, Williams was unsure that it was necessary, though it could be kept in mind and added later. He suggested that the town get public input on that idea.
“I’d like to have the leash thing,” said Councilman Dean Burrell.
During the discussion, Cosby said the loud vehicles in the town also perturb him.
“West St. is a pathetic mess on noise,’” Cosby said.
Cosby would like to see the council establish a fine for noisy vehicles, to follower the same structure he proposed for dog violations.
The town needs to buy a noise meter and train citizens to operate it and catch offenders, he said.
Stop signs on West St. encourage offenders to rev their engines while stopped, Cosby, who lives on the corner of West and Washington streets, feels.
“Are we going to have a livable town or a racetrack?” he asked.
State law covers noisy vehicles, said Gaskill.
“It’s already on the books. It’s just a matter of being able to enforce what’s there,” Gaskill said.
Cosby offered to buy the town a noise meter.
“Buy a noise meter. I’ll buy it. Just give us a way as citizens to get certification to do the readings,” Cosby said.
Downing said that citizen-operated noise meters would be impractical as only police officers can write citations.
Citizens should call the Berlin police about violators, with a description and tag number, Downing said, and the police will take action.
Downey said, “We’re definitely going to go ahead and do something.”