After making several minor additions to a proposed “scoop the poop” ordinance, the Town Council passed the amendment with a 4-0 vote. Councilor Jim Butler was not present for the Council’s May 2 meeting.
According to the revised Public Health, Safety and Welfare Ordinance related to Animal Control, dogs are no longer permitted in town cemeteries and must be secured by a leash on the Londonderry Rail Trail.
“There are a lot of young children and people riding skateboards on the Rail Trail, and the dogs are fouling,” Councilor John Farrell said of the motivation behind the new restrictions. “I expect there will be some postings that will go up at the Rail Trail to make people aware.”
Administrative Support coordinator Steve Cotton additionally committed to removing as soon as possible a sign at Pillsbury Cemetery depicting a squatting dog fouling – restricting dog owners from leaving any dog fouling in the cemetery – and replacing it with a more traditional sign detailing the new restrictions.
Only service dogs will be permitted at any town cemetery, unless confined to a visitor’s vehicle.
The Council also revised a restriction defined in the proposed amendment that would have required dogs to be secured by a leash on any town property or public place to allow dogs that are under the direct control of their handler to walk or run unrestrained by a leash in public places, including town trails.
The only exceptions are the Town Common and Town Forest, where dogs must be restrained by a leash, and other town properties where dogs are prohibited.
In addition to addressing management of dogs in public spaces, the Council increased the fine the Town may levy for dogs that are impounded from $10 to up to $30, and added a provision requiring dog owners to pay any veterinary care expenses incurred while a dog is in the Town’s care.
Councilor Tom Dolan suggested the increase, noting in an event where the Town is required to send a dog to a local commercial kennel, they should have the ability to protect the Town’s costs.
Councilor Joe Green requested the amendment be revised to raise the penalty for habitual offenders of the Ordinance from a $25 fine to a misdemeanor offense. But Police Chief Bill Hart said, “In the most strong language, I advise against turning people whose dogs run at large into criminals.
“A person guilty of a misdemeanor is a criminal. These folks shouldn’t be them,” he said. “However, I would agree on a fine up to $1,000. I have seen a certain number of times where the prosecutor had the ability to raise the fines up to $2,000.”
Hart recommended a better way “to deal with the legitimate concerns the Council has” would be to keep the fines for violating the Ordinance in line with those of the State.
With the amended ordinance in place, Hart said the Department will focus on educating the public about the new regulations.
Signs will be posted around town in places where dogs are restricted and the Town plans to post the amended Ordinance on the Town’s website at www.londonderrynh.org.
Hart encouraged members of the public who experience issues with an irresponsible dog owner to contact police.
“We’re all in on this thing,” Hart said. “We’ll do everything we can to ensure compliance with this.”
“Community policing is all about presence, it’s about showing up,” Farrell said. “And once we start showing up, I think this will be effective because no one wants to see the guys with the blue lights showing up.”