Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 37
 
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
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Township Elevates Fees for 'Dangerous' Dogs; Touts Gypsy Moth Program

Matthew Hersh

Township Hall sought to offset expenses involved in impounding potentially dangerous dogs Monday night by elevating the cost of licensing a dog with a rap sheet.

In conjunction with the fee ordinance, which is slated to be mirrored with a similar code in Princeton Borough, the Princeton Regional Health Department will very likely help assemble a community task force in making recommendations to the state Legislature related to animal safety, as well as in dispensing general animal-related information.

Township Committee voted unanimously to increase the licensing fee for "potentially dangerous" dogs to $700, a dramatic spike from the previous $100. The increase, Township officials asserted, is a necessary means to cover the costs of penning a dangerous dog for extended periods of time.

A handful of residents voiced their concerns urging people who have had pets succumb to animal attack to report any incident to the police, which then gets directed to Princeton Animal Control.

"The community needs information," said Ruth Randall, a Township resident whose dog was attacked twice by a neighbor's dog. "The Animal Control officer came by and said that the dog that attacked my dog should not be in the street, but the attacks kept coming.

"We should have a model set of regulations," she said, urging the creation of a task force to explore best practices.

Sue Tillet, a Township resident who is blind and relies on the assistance of a guide dog, said the regulations do not go far enough in addressing the needs of dogs trained and bred as guides. "Guide dogs are bred to be non-confrontational," she said, pointing to her own experience with other aggressive canines.

Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand called on a task force to work on assembling a brochure that could be disseminated through the Township newsletter and the municipal Web site. "This is about protecting animal rights and human safety," she said.

Mark Johnson, Princeton's Animal Control officer, said that the state allows for more enforcement power in dog-versus-dog situations, and can potentially get an owner to install proper fencing, as well as muzzling, in situations where a person is attacked.

However, Mr. Johnson said the Township cannot go above what the state allows, and suggested that a task force could urge the legislature to consider other punitive actions.

David Henry, health officer for the Princeton Regional Health Department, will report to the Health Commission at its September 18 meeting, looking for an endorsement to create a citizens' task force. "We have to seize on a strategic moment," he said.

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In other news, the Township has completed an aerial gypsy moth spray program covering approximately 800 acres, and, according to Township arborist and open space manager Greg O'Neil, the program was a success, eradicating an estimated 80 to 90 percent of the outbreak.

Typical success, he said, falls within the 60 to 70 percent range.

The $64,000 program, half of which was subsidized by the state, focused on what Mr. O'Neil described as a "really bad situation," pointing to vast defoliation in the Riverside and Littlebrook sections of the Township, which both required two spray applications.

He was guardedly optimistic in taking a "wait-and-see" approach in the return of future gypsy moth outbreaks, but that future infestations could be more manageable now that the initial program is complete.

The state used a pesticide spray known as Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (B.t.k.), a naturally occurring fungus, not harmful to humans or animals, Mr. O'Neil said.

The Township's street tree inventory is approximately 13,000.

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