Seaford proposes change in dog ordinance

By Lynn R. Parks

If a proposed ordinance becomes law, dogs and their owners who live in Seaford could have very different lives from what they have now. "We completely rewrote the city's dog ordinance," city manager Dolores Slatcher told members of the city council Tuesday night. "No one will be able to have more than three dogs. There will be no dogs running at large. Every dog will have to be in a confined enclosure from which it cannot escape. "This is intended to ensure responsible, humane handling by all owners of dogs in the city." The ordinance had its first reading at Tuesday night's council meeting; it will have its second and final reading during the Oct. 14 council meeting. If it is then approved by the council, it will take effect 30 days later. The law received general praise from council members Tuesday night. Councilwoman Pat Jones, noting that the new ordinance, 10 pages long, would replace the current two-page ordinance, said that it could not go into effect too quickly for her. Slatcher said that in writing the ordinance, the city tried to balance the rights of dog owners with the rights of the public. "We wanted to be sensitive to the people who do have dogs and who do love their dogs very much," she said. "This makes them be more responsible than the existing code requires them to be. It also brings a sense of safety for those people who aren't that close to the animal."

Under the proposed ordinance, city residents could have no more than three dogs. Exceptions would be granted for puppies and to people who have a retail dog dealer license or kennel license. In addition, residents who want more than three dogs could apply for permission to the Board of Animal Control. That board, which would be established under the ordinance, would be made up of the city's building official, currently Josh Littleton, and two members of the public, to be appointed by the mayor. Dogs would have to be confined or on a leash at all times. And the leash could be used only when the dog was out for a walk. No dog would spend its days tied in a yard. "All dogs shall be securely confined indoors or a locked kennel, pen, fenced area or area [with] an electronic pet containment system," the ordinance says. Owners would be required to keep kennels and pens clean, removing waste daily. Eight of the 10 pages of the new ordinance deal with dangerous dogs. A dog that is declared by the Board of Animal Control to be dangerous, and that would include all pit bull dogs, would have to be confined at all times "unless it is necessary for the dog to receive veterinary care or exercise." When the dog is outside of its kennel, it would be required to wear a muzzle. Owners of dangerous dogs would have to have a city permit, renewed annually, to keep the dog. They would be required to carry at least $100,000 in liability insurance, in case the dog bites someone, and would also have to notify the city immediately if the dog escapes. The ordinance also prescribes procedures for impoundments of dangerous dogs and, if necessary, killing them.

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