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Wilton considers new animal control ordinance, sets public hearing

By Ann Bryant, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

March 05--WILTON -- On Tuesday, the Board of Selectmen set a public hearing to allow residents to respond to a proposed new animal control ordinance.

The hearing is set for 7 p.m.April 1 at the town office prior to the board's regular meeting.

The date of the hearing allows time for the draft to be amended, sent to the town's attorney for review and added to the warrant for the June town meeting, Town Manager Rhonda Irish told the board.

The town's dog control ordinance was adopted in 1998 and amended in 2002, she said. If voters accept the new animal control ordinance, it would replace the current dog ordinance.

The new ordinance draft, one based on ordinances from other towns, extends the two-page dog ordinance to a 10-page animal control ordinance. They are available at the town office for residents to review prior to the hearing.

There seem to be three main issues concerning residents that prompted a rewrite of the ordinance, Irish said. These include barking dogs, dangerous dogs and disposal of animal waste.

The current ordinance just doesn't do it for barking dogs, she said.

The current ordinance states "no person shall own, keep or harbor any dog which by loud, frequent or habitual barking, howling or yelping shall disturb the peace of a person or persons."

The new draft defines "barking dog" by the length of barking, "one hour or intermittently for three hours." Also including barking or yowling that can be heard beyond the property boundaries.

The draft includes higher penalties for infractions -- "not less than $50 nor more than $250." For each subsequent violation, the penalty increases by $50. More than six violations in a year, the fine doubles. Owners who allow a dog to bark between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. may be subject to double fines.

The current ordinance fines $50 for a first offense and an additional $50 for each subsequent offense.

The draft ordinance defines dangerous dogs, special restraints and includes a liability insurance provision, not less than $300,000, that the owner needs to provide.

Penalties for violations of dangerous dog, as described, range from $500 for a first offense, $750 for second and $1000 for a third offense and an extra $1,000 per offense for subsequent offenses.

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Some selectmen questioned wording and ways of enforcement, particularly in regard to the board deciding "when a puppy can swim in Wilson Lake," Selectman Terry Brann said.

The board agreed to let voters review the draft ordinance and have their say on April 1.

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