The Derry Town Council has declined to institute a leash law after extensive discussion in the Monday, Dec. 2 meeting.
The leash law was brought up several weeks ago by Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores, who said she had received calls from several constituents complaining about dogs.
A motion by Katsakiores to establish a leash law failed because it didn’t have a second, and the town will continue with its current “control” policy, which simply requires that dogs be “controlled” by their owners.
Town Administrator Galen Stearns shared his research on the topic. Derry has a 90 percent compliance with registering dogs and there are currently 5,600 registered dogs in Derry, he said.
In researching “leash laws” in surrounding towns he learned that Londonderry, Salem and Windham do not have leash laws, opting instead for a “control” policy; Hudson has a leash law.
Katsakiores said seniors in the Pillsbury Apartments had expressed concern to her about loose dogs downtown. “When you’re off your property on a public street, you should have it on a leash,” Katsakiores told her fellow Councilors and the television audience.
She favored a regular leash rather than the popular “retractable” ones, noting that the retractable leashes are too long and extend too far for control.
Katsakiores also noted that people who say “My dog wouldn’t do that” aren’t always right. “It’s an animal,” she said.
But fellow Councilor Al Dimmock countered that a dog on a leash is “fake security.” He referenced a case in Manchester a few weeks ago, where an 80-year-old woman was allegedly attacked by a dog on a leash. The leash, he said, was held by a 10-year-old girl who couldn’t control the dog, even with a leash.
Councilor Joshua Bourdon asked Police Chief Ed Garone, “Under the existing license, if a dog bites someone, what happens?”
Garone said under current New Hampshire law, the dog will be taken into custody by police and the Animal Control Officer. “The dog will be kept for 10 days and inspected for disease,” Garone said. “The owner is requested to produce all medical documentation, including a shot record.” The medical history will be communicated to the victim, Garone said.
The owner meanwhile will be summoned to court, and if the animal is deemed “vicious,” it will be euthanized, according to Garone.
“Would police have to witness the bite, or would it be on a ‘he said, she said’ basis?” Bourdon asked.
“The likelihood of police witnessing the act,” Garone said, “is not great.” He explained that police can act on the statements of witnesses.
Dimmock asked about the victim. “Do they have any recourse?” Garone said there were several avenues of recourse.
Stearns said the state law, RSA 466:39, allows municipalities to impose their own fines of up to $50. But if Derry stays with the state regulations, it can charge $50 for the first offense and $100 for each subsequent offense. “The state fines are more restrictive than ours,” he said.
Katsakiores made her motion but it was not seconded, and the control policy will remain.