NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- The Bennington Police Department will be taking a more active role in dealing with animal complaints, according to Chief Paul Doucette.
Three residents of Houghton Lane addressed the Select Board Monday about a "three-year battle with dogs that are allowed to run" loose in their neighborhood. Doug Ball said he and other neighbors have contacted the town’s animal control officer several times, but "nothing has been done about it."
Ball said the dogs -- two Jack Russell terriers and a pit bull -- all belong to one family. The dogs have changed the way other families live, he said, and nearby residents are now scared to walk in the neighborhood. There is typically a run-in with one of the dogs about once every week or 10 days, according to Ball.
"What we have now is a situation where a single household dictates how our whole neighborhood lives," Ball said. "It goes on and on with nothing being done. It’s astounding."
The group recently contacted the police department after one of their dogs was attacked by one of the three dogs they said run free. He said a report was finally taken after they spoke with a police officer.
"That’s how you get the problem solved here," Ball said. "We found out that by calling the animal control officer we’re not doing anything. There is no report."
The Select Board agreed on Monday to send a letter to the owners of the dogs reminding them of the town ordinances concerning dogs. The letter will also include a list of potential fines for violating the local laws.
Doucette said he met with Ball and others in that Houghton Lane area for about 40 minutes about their concerns. He has since instructed his supervising officers and dispatchers to have officers respond or speak to local residents that call about a vicious dog or other animal complaints "to determine if it’s something that should be dealt with right away."
"People in Bennington would really like to call and speak to someone about animal-related issues," he said. "In fairness to the animal control officer, it’s a part-time position and there are no set hours. The full-time animal control position was cut from the town budget years and years ago."
Animal control officers used to patrol and round up strays, he said. But issues are now typically handled first by telephone. "Apparently, the situation up on Houghton Lane, that’s not working," Doucette said.
Doucette said officers will be responding to animal complaints and will issue citations for people who violate local laws. "Yes, police officers will be responding to more animal control issues," he said. "They will be enforcing the town ordinance as it relates to animal control issues."