Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 39
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
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Health Commission Vows Rapid Response in Mobilizing Dangerous Dogs Task Force

Matthew Hersh

Just weeks after a handful of concerned residents and the Princeton Regional Health Department’s health officer approached the Borough and Township about putting together regulatory measures for potentially dangerous dogs, it appears that a community task force will meet within the next few weeks to discuss how to offset dog-related attacks.

The Health Commission targeted December 1 of this year for the filing of possible recommendations for the state Legislature related to animal safety, as well those for dispensing general animal-related information.

The discussion was sparked this summer when the Princetons considered, and eventually adopted, increases in licensing fees for “potentially dangerous” dogs to $700, up from $100, representing the means considered necessary to cover the costs of penning a dangerous dog for extended periods of time.

Princeton Animal Control officer Mark Johnson, who appeared before both the Borough and Township governing bodies, has said that increased measures, including fencing and muzzling for dogs with an existing rap sheet, could help prevent injuries sustained by other dogs and humans.

Sue Tillet, a Township resident who is blind and relies on the assistance of her guide dog, Wonder, asked the Health Commission for leadership as a task force is assembled. “We’re happy to work on our own, but we would like some feedback as to what we can do,” she said.

Susan Kapoor, Health Commission chair, said the task force should meet soon, “so this issue does not go on and on and on,” and advised Ms. Tillet, as well as Health Department health officer David Henry, to organize an open meeting in the near future.

Mr. Johnson urged swift action by the task force: “We need to take measures before an incident occurs,” he said, adding that vigilance is needed on the part of dog owners as well, citing dog-versus-dog incidents where the owners are neighbors, and a subsequent reluctance to file a report. “Those types of incidents are the ones that have to be reported,” Mr. Johnson said. “Nine times out of ten, once a dog bites one time, he’s going to do it again.”

State law requires mandatory reporting of a dog-versus-human attack. Barring defensive circumstances, once a dog bites a human, Mr. Johnson said, that dog could be regarded as potentially dangerous, but a dog does not receive any classification until a second incident and the determining of the severity of the bite and the circumstances.

Bernie Miller, the Township Deputy Mayor who serves as liaison to the Health Commission, said that canine task force meetings would be held in public with advanced notification.

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