Changes proposed for town dog laws

Riverhead Town is considering changes to its code that, if adopted, would increase dog licensing fees and penalties for impounded dogs.

Under the proposed changes, licenses will cost $9 per year for an altered dog and $15 per year for a dog that has not been spayed or neutered. Applications can be made for one- and three-year licenses. A one-year license for an altered dog is currently $5.00 and $13.00 for a dog that has not been spayed or neutered.

Violators of the license law would face up to a $100 fine for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and up to $1,000 or 15 days in jail for the third offense committed within six years of the first offense. Service and police dogs are exempt from the fees. A rabies vaccine is required for a license.

The $20 penalty for a first impoundment would remain unchanged. Fees for second and third offenses would be $40 and $60, respectively, each reflecting a $10 increase.
The changes are being made because New York State will turn over dog licensing responsibilities to local municipalities as of Jan. 1.

“It’s another unfunded mandate,” said Town Board member Jodi Giglio during last Thursday’s work session.

A public hearing on the proposed changes is set for the Dec. 21 Town Board meeting at 7:20 p.m.

An earlier draft of the amendment would have given animal control officers the option to euthanize unidentified dogs that have been at the town animal shelter for more than seven days. Under that change, animal control officers would also have had the option to put the dog up for adoption or transfer it to a private shelter or rescue organization, according to a copy of the proposed amendment.

The current law specifies only that dogs that have been held at the Youngs Avenue shelter for more than 10 days can be put up for adoption. The town shelter strives to find homes for all impounded dogs, though some are euthanized for medical reasons.

Town officials said that the provision pertaining to “destroying” dogs after seven days has been removed from the proposed law. Riverhead Town Board member Jim Wooten, who is also the town’s liaison to the animal shelter, said the shelter committee will likely suggest a revised, more defined, euthanasia policy.

“They are not in favor of that particular verbiage,” Mr. Wooten said of the earlier draft. “That is going to be changed.”

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