Tuesday May 21, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Senior Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The Select Board approved an ordinance Monday that will place restrictions on how many dogs can be kept on private property before it is considered a private kennel.

The town does not currently limit the number of dogs a person can have on their property. The new policy will require an owner to register as a private kennel if they have five or more dogs with two of them intact.

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

A new provision requiring landowner permission for any tenants registering as a private kennel was added. "We added that in just to make sure that landowners are aware of what's happening on their property," said town Planning Director Daniel Monks, who said land owners would likely not be held liable for a tenant's kennel.

The ordinance was passed on a 5 to 2 vote after an attempted to reduce the setback distance to 500 feet failed on 2 to 5 vote. Select Board member Justin Corcoran sought the setback reduction from neighbors, but only John McFadden supported that idea.

The ordinance was strongly backed by a group of residents along East Road. They say a neighbor, Dereck Jensen, owns as many as 13 pit bulls that bark and have destroyed fences along property lines.


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One neighbor, Kevin Bisaccio, discouraged any reduction in the setback requirements.

"I'm very concerned about where the conversation is going at the moment. I think 1,000 feet is imperative because some of these other requirements are subjective or qualitative," he said. "I cannot emphasize enough that we need objective standards, otherwise, arguments will continue in neighborhoods like my own."

Another neighbor said Jensen is running a kennel and has told neighbors he makes money off of his dogs. "His dogs are out there all the time. They are not pets," the neighbor said.

Jensen did not attend the meeting, but sent an email to Select Board Chairman Joseph L. Krawczyk Jr. that was read out loud. Jensen wrote that he receives the dogs from a breeder in New York and trains them in weight pulling and takes them to shows. However, no breeding is done at his East Road home, he wrote.

Some board members were skeptical, however.

"To me, the process he is describing is a kennel," Greg Van Houten said. "If that was next door to me I would consider that a kennel."

Jensen does not currently meet the 1,000-foot setback requirement at his home.

"He's too close to his neighbors. He would have to find another location to continue," Town Manager Stuart Hurd said.

There is now a 60-day period allowing anyone in the community to ask the board to alter or eliminate the ordinance before it takes effect.

Monks said a petition seeking to overturn the ordinance could force reconsideration if it garnered at least 400 signatures.

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