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August 18. 2013 11:16PM

Manchester close to adopting rules for vicious dogs

MANCHESTER — A proposed ordinance that would require any dog deemed to be vicious, a menace or a nuisance to be muzzled or put on a leash in public could become law as early as this fall.

The ordinance, which would also require dogs found to be vicious be enrolled in behavioral modification training classes, has had a second reading and will go before the Board of Aldermen in September.

“The reaction I’ve seen to it has been positive,” said Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long. “A few questions have come up, like the criteria used to determine if a dog is or isn’t considered vicious, but they were answered in committee meetings. You never know until it goes before the full board, but I don’t expect any roadblocks to pop up.”

The ordinance, which received initial approval from aldermen last month, will need to come back before the full board at its first meeting in October for a vote. The aldermen meet just once in September, and the ordinance can’t be passed at a meeting where it is being brought forth for the first time.

Long said aldermen have been working on the issue for about a year, reviewing ordinances from more than a half-dozen communities, including Nashua, Berlin, Keene, Concord and Portsmouth.

The ordinance spells out that any dogs deemed vicious must be:

• Physically restrained on private property by fencing sufficient to keep the animal from jumping or climbing over it;

• Spayed or neutered if not already;

• Identified by microchip or tattooing with documentation to be submitted to the city;

• Banned from entering any public “off leash” dog park within the city.

The ordinance will also require owners of these dogs to notify the City Clerk’s Office if the dog dies, experiences a change of address or is given to a new owner. Police Lt. Maureen Tessier said the ordinance will make the job done by the department’s animal control officers a little easier.

“It will spell out the responsibilities they have responding to a vicious dog call,” Tessier said.

“I think it’s needed,” said Shelley Greenglass, manager of the Manchester Animal Shelter. “Owners will take more responsibility for their pets.”

The shelter handles dogs picked up by the city’s animal control officers.

The ordinance isn’t limited to specific breeds.

“There were some who felt it should include language for specific breeds, but I don’t agree with that,” said Long. “Not every dog from a certain breed behaves the same way. There are only a handful of these incidents that occur, and it’s not fair to lump every dog from a particular breed together.”

pfeely@unionleader.com


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