Click photo to enlarge
The Bennington Select Board is weighing an ordinance is response to complaints about pit bulls on East Road, shown in this February photo. (Keith Whitcomb)
The Bennington Select Board is weighing an ordinance is response to complaints about pit bulls on East Road, shown in this February photo. (Keith Whitcomb)
The Bennington Select Board is weighing an ordinance is response to complaints about pit bulls on East Road, shown in this February photo. (Keith Whitcomb)
Tuesday May 14, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Senior Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The Select Board presented an ordinance Monday that would regulate the number of dogs a person can own before being required to register as a private kennel.

The town does not currently limit the number of dogs a person can have on their property, Bennington Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd said. The new policy would require an owner to register as a private kennel if they have five or more dogs with two of them intact.

The proposed ordinance would also reduce the amount of time of "excessive barking" from 15 minutes to 7 minutes before a violation, and require at least $500,000 in liability insurance. Additionally, it would require that dogs be kept 1,000 feet from another residence.

"We're attempting to set limitations on what those numbers are," Hurd said. "This attempts to deal with that private issue that has become more and more an issue for municipal governments to deal with as dog lovers have become dog breeders."

East Road resident Dereck Jensen, who owns many pit bulls, attended the meeting to argue against the ordinance. He said the policy would unfairly require him to register.

"I'm not a kennel. Do I have over five dogs? Yes. But, I don't breed. I don't train. I don't sell pups. I don't sell grown dogs," Jensen said, who did not say exactly how many dogs he owns.

"Then why don't you get your dogs neutered?" Select Board Chairman Joseph L. Krawczyk Jr. asked.

"I don't feel the need to neuter. That would be like telling someone, ‘Well, you have three or more kids. Why don't you go get yourself clipped?'" Jensen said.

He said neutering his animals would also prevent them from entering some dog shows. Jensen brought several ribbons, medals and a trophy to demonstrate that his dogs are well cared for.

Jensen's neighbors have lodged several barking complaints on numerous occasions. Several neighbors appeared at Monday's Select Board meeting to encourage the board to adopt the proposed ordinance.

One East Road neighbor said the nuisance of Jensen's dogs has him considering moving.

"This was the last place I was supposed to live before I die. Now I have to move," the man said. "Just common sense would tell you. Who would want to buy my house if I want to sell it? Nobody in their right mind."

Another neighbor, Kevin Bisaccio who lives in Autumn Acres, said Jensen's dogs have also caused him problems.

"I'm here because over the past year I have discovered two dogs chained to my property," he said. "It took me two months to have them removed and it had to be done via a notice of no trespass."

Bisaccio said he has had several "conversations and confrontations" with Jensen about the nuisance.

"I stay up nights worrying whether the people who own these dogs have the proper insurance to protect" himself, his neighbors and the town, Bisaccio said.

Jensen said the Select Board was creating an ordinance that would be "impossible for me to adhere to." "There is no insurance company in the world that is going to give me $500,000 policy for my pit bulls," he said.

"If an insurance company is not willing to take the risk the town isn't either," Select Board member Thomas Jacobs said.

Bennington Planning Director Daniel Monks, who wrote the ordinance, said it will allow the town to regulate situations where it is difficult to prove if someone is selling dogs or otherwise acting as a kennel.

"There's no more cracks to fall through," Monks said. "This takes care of folks who say, ‘Well, I'm not really a commercial kennel.'"

The board took no action Monday on the ordinance, or another ordinance that condenses most of the other town laws about pets into one policy. The board will likely vote at a future meeting on whether it will adopt the two ordinances. There will then be a 60-day period allowing anyone in the community to ask the board to alter or eliminate the ordinance before it takes effect.

Contact Neal P. Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com, or follow on Twitter: @nealgoswami