Berlin OKs New Dog Rules

BERLIN – A public hearing on Berlin’s new dog regulations attracted a single speaker, and the Town Council passed the ordinance with little fanfare Monday night.

“I agree with the ordinance. I appreciate the ordinance,” Diane Graham said. “It seems lately in our society dogs are more entitled to rights than people are.”

The new ordinance requires all dogs to be leashed when off the owner’s property and imposes higher fines on biting dogs. The new law also governs dog-created nuisances, like barking and car chasing, and requires that all dogs be registered with the county.

Fines for dog offenses were increased from $75 to $250 for a first offense, and $400, up from $100, for every offense thereafter.

Owners of dogs that chase cars or bikes, destroy plants or other animals, bark excessively, or exhibit behavior that “interferes with enjoyment of life or property,” can face sanctions for nuisance under the new regulations.

Pete Cosby, the resident who made the original complaint about loose and dangerous dogs after one bit a guest of his over Memorial Day weekend, has said he has no problem with loose dogs, as long as the animals are well behaved. The new regulations actually go further than Cosby had originally intended.

Town police will use their discretion in enforcing the leash law, the Town Council has said.

Mayor Tom Cardinale said later that the council had already been considering changes to the dog regulations, which is why there was such a rapid response to Crosby’s complaint. The law was passed only six weeks after Cosby made his case for greater fines before the council.

According to Graham, the public nuisance section of the law should go further and require dog walkers to pick up after their pets.

During the public comments at the end, Berlin resident Karen Smith agreed with Graham.

“It’s probably a health issue. I think it probably attracts rodents,” Smith said.

“That’s always been a private gripe of mine,” said Cardinale later.

Regulations requiring people to pick up after their dogs is on the horizon, he said, but probably nothing will happen until someone complains.

“When you walk your dog, be courteous about it,” Cardinale said.

Dog owners can get licenses for their canine companions from a local veterinarian, with proof that the animal is up to date on all shots, or through the Animal Control Center north of Snow Hill.

“If you are bitten by a stray animal and you see that tag at least you know the animal is up to date on its shots,” Cardinale said.