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Laconia rejects proposed ordinance to crackdown on invisible dog fences

Union Leader Correspondent

October 12. 2017 11:13PM

Marc Burrell of Laconia took this selfie with his pit bull, Titan. Burrell's request for an amendment to the city's leash law requiring dog owners to have a physical fence or keep their pets tethered whenever they're unattended on their property was rejected by the city council. (COURTESY)

LACONIA — The city council has scuttled a proposed amendment to the city’s dog control ordinance, after hearing from residents who opposed the measure.

As a result, invisible fences remain an acceptable form of complying with the city’s leash law.

The original recommendation to amend came out of the City Council Government Operations and Ordinance Committee on a 2-1 vote.

The issue came to the forefront in early July after Marc Burrell, a Warren Street resident, spoke at a city council meeting.

He recounted that while walking his leashed dog, he passed a property equipped with an invisible fence and the unrestrained dog ran through the electric fence and attacked his dog.

Invisible fences work by delivering a warning sound, followed by an electric shock via a transmitter collar when a dog crosses the boundary line.

Burrell owns an American Staffordshire terrier, more commonly known as a pit bull, and told councilors that he was concerned that if his dog defended itself, it would only add to the misconceptions about the breed.

“Nine times out of 10 if something happens, the pit bull is going to get the blame,” Burrell said.

Current city ordinance requires dogs either be leashed or “within an enclosure” whenever the animal is not on the property of the owner.

In response to Burrell’s concerns, the recommendation to amend was made, and legal counsel was tasked with drafting the language asked for by the committee, chaired by Ava Doyle, who did not seek reelection.

After the draft language was made public, and reported in the media, many people spoke against it, said City Manager Scott Myers.

Once the ordinance language was drafted, it was brought before the full city council as an agenda item on Tuesday to determine whether or not it was to be accepted. Had the council voted in favor, the amendment would have advanced to a public hearing for a proposed ordinance change. Councilor David Bownes made a motion on Tuesday to leave the language as it is. It was seconded by Brenda Baer and approved in a 6-0 vote.

The existing ordinance says it shall be unlawful to intentionally permit any dog to run at large within the city of Laconia, and requires owners to keep their pet leashed or within an enclosure whenever the dog is not on their property. The ordinance specifically exempts hunting dogs while they are under the supervision and control of their owners.

The proposed amendment would have required that when the dog was outside on the property of the owner, that it must be supervised, or either leashed or in a physical enclosure, not an invisible or electric shock fence. The proposed ordinance would have further required that after a first violation, in addition to a fine, that the dog must thereafter by physically restrained at all times when outside.

Animals Politics Laconia

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