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Dog law sinks at Greencastle Borough Council meeting

May 04, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Months of grassroots lobbying for an anti-dog tethering ordinance came to a halt Monday when the Greencastle Borough Council told residents that its hands were tied.

Borough Solicitor Sam Wiser, of Salzmann Hughes P.C. in Chambersburg, Pa., said the Pennsylvania Borough Code limits what a borough can and cannot do for dogs, cats and pets.

Regulating cruelty is beyond the borough's scope, he said.

Council President Charlie Eckstine told residents in April that the council would try to do what it could to protect the animals.

Councilman Paul Schemel requested at the time that residents provide Wiser a sample ordinance in the spirit of their goal.

Bobbie McIntyre of Greencastle said she found a law in place in the City of Hazleton, Pa., that regulated tethering.

On Monday, Wiser said that the ordinance from Hazleton was not comparable because, as a 3rd class city, Hazleton has the power to pass such an ordinance.

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The General Assembly, he said, did not vest similar power in a borough.

Above and beyond the commonwealth's animal cruelty statues, a borough can only have leash laws, he said.

Representatives from the Adams County SPCA in Gettysburg, Pa., questioned Wiser's advice.

Lobbying for similar ordinances in their county, SPCA board member Christine Ameduri said Adams County Solicitor John Hartzell told her organization that such laws could be passed at the township and borough level, but not the county level.

Wiser refuted Hartzell's ability as a county solicitor to give advice on borough code, but Eckstine said, "We pay our solicitor good money, Sam if I may, and we rely on his advice."

Franklin County Humane Society Police Officer Buck Hessler said a borough police officer can enforce the Commonwealth's cruelty law in Greencastle.

With no local ordinances regulating cruelty, animal cruelty calls are most often jurisdiction of Humane Society officers, he said.

Hessler and one other officer respond to all calls of cruelty and neglect in the county, he said.

Calls for chained or tethered dogs account for about 40 percent of his job, he said.

Hoping to provide clarification on dog law enforcement in the county, Hessler said attended the meeting to clear up what his job was compared to the job of Dog Warden Georgia Martin, who handles calls for dogs running at-large, bites and license violations.

Mayor Robert Eberly asked residents what more they wanted beyond the state law which officers can and do enforce in the borough.

McIntyre said she wanted to see some muscle at the local level.

The lack of decision Monday left Greencastle residents hanging, she said.

"I am extremely disappointed," she said. "We will keep fighting, though, I don't know how."

Emily Green from the Adams County SPCA said she lobbied for anti-tethering legislation at the state level.

That effort, she said, has dragged on for six years.

"We always regroup and come back to try again," she said.

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