By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
(March 16, 2023) The Town of Berlin could be adopting the Worcester County animal control code as some residents push for a more organized and stricter approach to defining pets and enforcing laws.
Resident Gina Velong briefed tge Berlin Planning Commission on March 8 on research she’s done that indicates the town’s stance on animal control no longer suits the growing populace.
She described “not great pet ownership” in the community, including poor collaring and tagging of pets.
“You don’t know your neighbors as well anymore,” she said “You don’t know peoples’ pets.”
She also pointed out that the term “dog” in the town code needs to be changed to “animal,” as the idea of what can be considered a pet has changed.
“We had a pet pig loose on (Powellton Avenue recently),” Velong said. “I made a joke about it and then I saw a baby pig in my neighborhood running around. The definition of what a pet is and the ones that can cause issues have changed. They should have some kind of identifying tag, all of them, or a collar of some sort to easily identify them as someone’s pet.”
She also suggested that the town adopt the state’s definition of an “aggressive dog,” which would make it easier to simply use the county’s animal code language.
Since the town does not have its own animal control unit, mirroring the county’s protocol would make it easier for the county to deal with Berlin and thus respond more to the town.
“Why can’t we be proactive and not wait for something horrible to happen and then adopt rules that match the county so that the county can have an easier time?” Velong asked.
From January 2022 to February 2023, town police handled 61 animal control-related complaints, Berlin Planning Director Dave Engelhart told the commission. Of those cases, four were dog bites and three were complaints of animal cruelty.
“It’s not a huge issue (to get this done),” Engelhart said. “The staff doesn’t think we need to redo a text amendment to redo our whole ordinance.”
A public hearing would be required, however.
Commission member Pete Cosby was on board with cleaning up the town’s animal control code and punishing owners who allow nuisances to persist.
“Dogs have created more problems for me in this town living here … My front yard’s a bathroom,” Cosby said.
“It’s not a dog problem, it’s a people problem. The owners don’t have any respect for their neighbors and it’s constant. It shouldn’t be so hard to nail somebody for a barking dog nuisance.”
Velong pointed out that enforcing code violations with fines should be effective deterrents and would also be an additional source of revenue for the town.
Commission chair Chris Denny said he’d like to hear Town Attorney Dave Gaskill’s opinion on what can be done, although Engelhart’s staff will continue working with Velong to come up with a plan.