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Tarentum approves animal-control law

| Tuesday, March 22, 2005

TARENTUM -- All borough dog owners will soon have to register their pets with borough officials, and also will only be allowed to posses a maximum of four dogs and/or cats.

However, if a borough resident currently owns more than four pets, they will be allowed to keep all of them.

Council passed an ordinance Monday that includes those and other measures to try to make pet owners more responsible for the actions of their pets.

The move comes on the heels of a January incident in which a 13-year-old borough girl was attacked by two pit bulls. It was the third attack by a pit bull on a child in the borough since July 2003.

Those dogs have since been destroyed.

"This is in my opinion the first step to try to rectify a problem we have had in the borough for a number of years," Councilman Mike Gutonski said.

The ordinance requires dogs to be on a leash of 8 feet or less, or a leash with a 3-foot radius.

The owner could also be fined for barking dogs.

A first offense to any of the infractions would call for a $50 fine, a second offense a $100 fine, and a third offense a $500 fine.

If people don't pay the fines within 45 days they could also be subject to jail time. It could add up to three days in jail for a first offense, five days for a second offense, and 30 days for a third offense.

The ordinance and a registration form will be sent to borough residents with their electric bill.

Borough resident Rose Kuniak asked where the money for the fines is going.

Borough Manager Jeff Thomas said most will go to the state and for court costs, and the borough will see only a small portion of the money.

Kuniak said she's taken in two stray dogs, and she said there's is a definite need for something to be done. She also questioned why something wasn't done sooner.

Gutonski said the ordinance is not being put into place for responsible pet owners, but rather those people who don't keep an eye on their pets.

"The whole purpose of this ordinance is to try to protect the citizens of this borough," Gutonski said. "This is for people who aren't responsible for their dogs, this is not for the responsible pet owners of this town."

Enforcement will be handled by the borough code enforcement officer, police, or dog catcher.

The dog catcher would most likely only be involved in the case of a vicious dog. Hoffman Kennels in Delmont handles those duties for the borough.

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