By ASHLEY HELMS
New provisions to a Village of Mamaroneck local law aimed at increasing safety for dogs and residents may have some extra bite to them.
The Board of Trustees is considering mandating dog owners to relicense their pets on an annual basis, acquire liability insurance worth at least $50,000 in case of a dog attack, install a microchip in the dog and require that all dogs must be spayed or neutered.
A microchip is placed under the skin of an animal and is used to return lost pets to their owners more quickly.
According to Village of Mamaroneck Attorney Charles Goldberger, the village could run into trouble with requiring dog owners to microchip their pets and buy liability insurance. Village government does not require homeowners to purchase liability insurance and there aren’t any other jurisdictions in the area that require dog owners to purchase the insurance.
“[The Board of Trustees has] the authority to do it, but I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Goldberger said.
The microchip would also be an expensive requirement, Goldberger said.
The basis for the stricter provisions stems from an incident in September 2012 in which a pit bull jumped the fence around its yard on Florence Street and attacked an elderly woman and her dog; killing the dog in the process and removing the tip of the woman’s finger. Shortly after, signs appeared around the village urging residents to attend a Board of Trustees meeting to protest against the possible banning of the breed in the village.
Another pit bull, named Lola, attacked a resident’s dog in June 2012 and another resident in May 2012. Following the attacks, the dog was transferred to a pound in New Rochelle following a village court order in June 2013.
As outlined by state law, government is prohibited from using breed-specific language with respect to outlawing dangerous dogs.
“We…found that we can’t do anything for one breed, it has to be across the board, so we’re updating our local law,” Rosenblum said.
The village isn’t the only local municipality that was shaken by a dangerous pit bull attack.
In Yonkers, a 5-year-old boy’s genitals were severed in November 2013 by a pit bull after the boy climbed in bed with his aunt and the dog.
Jamie Ianello, a dog trainer in the village, said microchipping pets is a good idea in case an animal is lost. That way, a veterinarian or rescue group could reunite a pet with its owner quickly.
“If a dog is lost, they scan the microchip and it has all the owner’s information on it,” she said.
Ianello posted signs along Mamaroneck Avenue in the fall of 2012 encouraging residents to attend the Board of Trustees meeting to defend pit bull ownership after the Florence Street attack. She said she encounters hundreds of pit bulls in her line of work and considers only a small percentage of them dangerous.
“Terriers in general have a higher prey drive. The pit bulls I meet now; some of them are nasty and some of them are perfect. It’s not breed specific, it’s how you raise them and their environment,” Ianello said.
The village also wants to strengthen provisions against puppy mills, which are dog breeding facilities in which the animals often live in poor conditions. Goldberger said laws against puppy mills already exist in the state Agriculture and Markets Law.
“If we find puppy mills, fines can be applied through [the state law],” Goldberger said.
Trustee Ilissa Miller, a Democrat, said the village has leash requirements, but she is concerned with adding new local laws in case the new laws are not enforced by the village. Existing state law does not mandate spaying and neutering pets, she said, but she suggested the village could set up a day aimed at encouraging owners to spay and neuter their pets.
Mayor Rosenblum was concerned with Miller’s idea. He said pet owners should be encouraged to spay and neuter their animals at their veterinarian of choice.
“I have a problem with liability because if we set up a day and something goes wrong [the village] would worry about liability. We should try to get residents to go to their own vets,” Rosenblum said.
Ianello said spaying and neutering pets cuts down on aggressive behavior, especially in males. It limits defiance when the dog is issued commands by its owner, she said, and the pit bull involved in the attack in 2012 was an unneutered male.
“If an unneutered male is in a yard and an unaltered female walks by, they will do anything to get to that animal. When they’re not neutered, its main drive for survival is to mate,” Ianello said.
Assistant Village Manager Daniel Sarnoff said the village could establish a spay and neutering program by working with local clinics to get discounted rates for residents as an incentive.