The Town of Cobleskill has a dog law now with teeth.
But there was plenty of barking on both sides of the issue Monday before Supervisor Leo McAllister and councilmen voted 4-1 in favor of fining owners whose dogs go looking for trouble.
The law is almost identical to one on the books for the Village of Cobleskill, said Supervisor Leo McAllister, except that it doesn’t deal with barking and the fines are half as much.
Without the law, Mr. McAllister said, the town’s dog control officer can respond to complaints and write a ticket, but is powerless to do any more.
Case in point, Mr. McAllister said: When he was bitten while running, he called State Police because he wasn’t going to risk getting bitten again by going up to the owner’s front door, and was asked what he did to provoke the dog.
“That bothered me,” he said. “I don’t like laws, but…”
Art Rumph of Mineral Springs brought problems with his neighbor’s dogs to the Town Board a year ago; his wife has since been bitten and disgusted, he finally built a fence to keep them away, he said Monday.
Just writing tickets for loose dogs without consequences, he said, “is like giving a cop a gun with no bullets.”
Also speaking at Monday’s public hearing, Jerry Coons asked if he’d be ticketed or fined if his dogs went on his neighbor’s property with their permission.
No, Mr. McAllister said.
“Let’s be frank. This is for people who don’t take care of their dogs.”
Councilman RJ Mallery wasn’t buying that argument though; he said the law would allow any dog to be picked up anywhere.
Also, he said, the law calls for seized dogs to be taken to a shelter, and he called for changes in the wording that would require it to be a no-kill shelter.
But the only place the town takes its dogs is the Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley, Mr. McAllister said, and it’s always been a no-kill shelter.
Councilman Mary Ann Wollaber-Bryan also questioned the need for the law, pointing out that she’s been keeping track of dog complaints; some months there are none, she said, others they’re handled with a phone call.
Only Mr. Mallery voted against the law and initially, Ms. Wollaber-Bryan abstained.
But when Clerk Tina Ward pointed out her abstention would go down as a “no,” she switched to no on the condition that the town at least talk about creating a dog park.