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City looks at adding bite to dog rules

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 10. 2012 2:20AM

Lucinda Boutin of Manchester points to the injuries her dog, Sammy, suffered in an encounter with a pit bull in May. (UNION LEADER FILE)


MANCHESTER - A passionate plea by a city resident to protect her pet was taken up again this week by the Public Safety Committee, which is considering changing how attacks by aggressive animals are handled.

Lucinda Boutin first appeared at the June 5 Board of Aldermen meeting, recalling details of an attack on her rat terrier Sammy by a pit bull named Mikey near her Mammoth Road home.

'I have never seen so much blood or screamed so long,' wrote Boutin in a May 31 email to Alderman at Large Dan O'Neil. 'I love this beautiful city of Manchester. I've always felt safe here. But our city is growing and with that, we have a new danger in our city that requires immediate attention and correction.'

Ward 5 Alderman Ed Osborne said Monday that he agreed with Boutin.

'I used to walk a lot in my ward, and I was more concerned about (dogs) than people,' he said. 'I'll say it, when I'm walking I carry a .32 magnum. Carrying pepper spray doesn't work. It's a very scary, scary situation. We've got to educate people out there about this.'

Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long said Thursday that Manchester City Solicitor Thomas Clark has been looking into local regulations, but state law limits the alterations the city can make.

'There are already state regulations regarding attacks by vicious dogs,' said Long. 'But the solicitor has been busy looking at local laws in municipalities around the state, to see if there is any existing language in place somewhere that we could look at here.'

According to police reports, Boutin's rat terrier Sammy was caught in the jaws of Mikey, a pit bull, on May 18, a sight that prompted cars to pull over on Mammoth Road, with drivers attempting to try to separate the two dogs. Sammy suffered abrasions and bruises to its neck. Mikey's owner, Dorothy Mahoney, was fined $100; Mikey was placed under a 10-day quarantine.

Boutin previously asked the aldermen to increase first-time fines for a vicious dog from $100 to $500, as well as requiring a muzzle for vicious dogs when they are outside, and creating a public database to track vicious dogs.

Manchester's current ordinance creates a maximum fine of $100 for a vicious dog attack, while a second offense within 12 months carries a $400 fine, along with a court hearing to determine if the dog should be removed from the owner's custody.

The Public Safety Committee heard an update on the solicitor's research this week.

'The biggest issue with putting in a muzzle regulation is that it requires that a referendum question be put out to the voters, and that it be done during a municipal election,' said Long. 'So the earliest the city could put it on a ballot would be November 2013.'

Long said Boutin also requested that the license registration cost for 'bully breeds' be higher.

'The issue with that is that the state already has a definition of what constitutes a vicious dog,' said Long. 'We have to adhere to that language.'

Long and Osborne agreed that changes should be made to help ensure the safety of all residents, whether or not they are dog owners.

'There is a serious issue with a dog attacking and killing another dog,' said Long at this week's Public Safety Committee meeting. 'I'm not one to say we should stick our nose into everything, but when it's affecting innocent bystanders, I believe it's our responsibility to ensure that this doesn't happen.'

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New Hampshire Union Leader City Hall reporter Ted Siefer contributed to this story. Paul Feely may be reached at pfeely@unionleader.com.


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