Dog control remains a topic of conversation in Pelham
PELHAM — In a widely distributed letter to dog owners, also posted on the town’s website, the Selectboard summarized the changes to the leash and control regulations passed this year, and how the fee structure for violations dogs has increased.
“There’s a new, higher fine scale,” Police Chief Gary Thomann said. “The first offense went up to $25.”
Violations subject to a fine include biting and other aggressive behavior, running away, nuisance barking, chasing livestock, and not having a dog license. Fines start at $25 and go up to $50 and $75 for a second and third offence. Inhuman treatment peaks at $100 after multiple offenses.
The letter posted on the website on December 22 said dog owners would receive the letter by post, which would also appear in the winter edition of the Pelham Slate. According to the letter, subsection 5-3, subsection 5-7 and subsection 18 have been amended to further clarify the degree of control required and the fines for each breach. It ended with the statement in bold: “So there is a leash law in Pelham. All complaints and suspected violations should be reported to the Dog Manager, 413-800-6280.
As of December 28, the Dog Officer’s voicemail had not yet been configured.
The missive to dog owners clarified the language of the city’s confusing leash law. Section 22, passed at the 2019 annual municipal meeting, stated that an off-leash dog wandering beyond the boundaries of its owner’s property is in violation of the leash law, unless the dog trains, works or hunts. Section 23, defeated at the 2019 meeting, required “dogs on city property to be leashed at all times.”
The new wording of the bylaw states, “The city requires all dog owners to keep their dogs under control at all times for the purpose of protecting people and animals from injury, protecting property from damage and preventing harm. dog nuisance.
Conservation lands, such as the Buffam Falls Conservation Area, are not city-owned land. This may have caused confusion among dog owners, who let animals run around the shelter. Other residents, walking the trails there, have experienced more incidents with dogs than in the past, precipitating the stronger language of city bylaws.
Thomann observed that some residents were supportive of the new deterrents, while others were not. He saw two possible causes for the disagreements. “A lot of people think they have voice control over their dogs, but that’s not true,” he said. “Some people confuse an overly friendly dog with an aggressive dog, so there’s that too.”
Item 3 from the October 2021 meeting, which called for funding a canine patrol officer for $15,000 per year, was withdrawn.
At a selection committee meeting ahead of the October 2021 town meeting, member David Shanahan spoke about the issues he saw with the position. A canine patrol officer paid $25 an hour would only work 11 hours a week. The Patrol Constable would not be a calming presence as there is too much land in Pelham to survey in so few hours.
“So no, it’s not really true that you’ll meet anyone on the track,” Shanahan said. “I don’t think it’s effective.”
During this discussion, resident Bill Pula argued in favor of the patroller. He said of the stricter leash law: “If nobody enforces it, it won’t matter… It’s an exercise in futility.”
Thomann, speaking after the October 2021 vote strengthened the leash law, suggested the patroller was still a possibility. He said, “It’s been postponed.”
After more than two years of exploring options, interviewing residents, enduring canine misbehavior and rewriting bylaws, the letter said the current version of Pelham’s Code does not reflect changes to bylaws passed in 2019. The “codification process” had not yet been completed.