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Hampton Falls considers crackdown on unleashed dogs
Board of Selectmen talks strict leash laws

By Laura Mellow
[email protected] seacoastonline. com
June 15, 2007 6:00 AM

HAMPTON FALLS - The town will be cracking down on dogs.

At Wednesday's meeting, selectmen discussed toughening penalties for dog owners who allow their dogs off their leashes, in response to a concern voiced by resident Jennifer Desmarais.

"I was hoping to have something in place in town specifically for dangerous dogs," said Desmarais, whose daughter received 40 stitches after a dog, who had prior incidents of getting loose, bit her and grazed her jugular vein.

Massachusetts is discussing options for toughening dog laws and Desmarais thinks Hampton Falls should follow suit by creating a registry to list "any dog that hasn't been trained or perhaps has a medical condition that hasn't been attended to."

Hampton Falls is under state dog laws when it comes to enforcement for this sort of crime, Police Chief Robbie Dirsa said. Although dog owners can be prosecuted for the action of their dogs as well as held civilly responsible, Dirsa said the fine for letting a dog off its leash is $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second and $100 for the third.

"Maybe we have to look at an ordinance that's going to give us some bite," said Selectman Stephen Volpone.

Selectman Ted Tocci agree, but was concerned about a registry for "dangerous dogs."

"I question that everyone is going to have their dogs trained," Tocci said, adding he worries making a breed-specific list (Massachusetts is considering a ban on pit bulls) would be a form of discrimination.

Tocci also mentioned that living in a rural area, residents have to worry about wild animals like coyotes and foxes.

"There's a lot of danger around us, not only dogs," Tocci said. "I'm not against anything that's going to make things safer but I think there are some questions."

Dirsa said police are taking more enforcement action when it comes to dogs off their leashes. He also said he hopes to hear from local joggers who know where the problem areas are for loose dogs.

"We're really trying to make an effort and encourage people to call and let us know about it €¦ I think we're really making headway in that regard," Dirsa said.

Selectmen agreed educating the public on state leash laws and the Police Department's effort to deter dog owners from this sort of behavior will help to protect people.

"That may go a long way towards alleviating the problem," Volpone said.

http://www.seacoast online.com/ apps/pbcs. dll/article? AID=/20070615/ NEWS/706150314

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