To Leash or Not to Leash; That Is the Question Before Fairview Town Council

To Leash or Not to Leash; That Is the Question Before Fairview Town Council

Just as the controversies surrounding the rebuild of Fire Station No. 1 had subsided, the Fairview Town Council now finds itself wedged between advocates who are calling for enhanced enforcement of the town’s puny leash law and those who tout the freedom to allow their dogs to roam unleashed. This issue is chockfull of complex issues that promise a difficult road to resolution. At its core is the current Fairview town leash law that is “puny” because it cannot be enforced because of ambiguous language. While the language can be edited to cure the defects, the larger issue is the question of whether to compel citizens to leash their dogs so that they are always an “animal under control.” Town Manager Julie Couch noted that there have been 75 animal calls in the last year but was unable to separate from the total those that involved unleashed dogs. The town’s staff will investigate the data more closely and has been instructed by the Council to research what other cities in the vicinity have done.

At its Sept. 3 meeting, Town Council listened as seven witnesses testified about their views concerning the leashing of dogs. Marcia Muller, a long-time Fairview resident who is hearing impaired, related how she and her service dog were confronted recently by an unleashed and aggressive dog.

In her testimony, Muller noted that she had furnished Council members with a raft of data from “reputable outside sources”. “Keeping dogs under restraint to maintain a safe community is supported by knowledgeable, experienced, certified dog professionals, veterinarians, animal control personnel and others.”  Both Muller and Council Member Cynthia Brugge added that posts they both recently published at the website Next Door, a community bulletin board and commentary site, resulted in the expression of overwhelming support for an enhanced Fairview leash law. Even members of the Council appear to be split on this issue. Mayor Henry Lessner said, “I’m not ready to move on this issue without more data”. Council Member Roland Feldman, however, stated, “We have enough laws. We don’t need any more laws.”

Muller’s husband, James Muller, also testified and conveyed a section of a memorandum issued by the American Veterinary Medical Association that states in part, “Like most accidents, dog bites tend to happen in the home or neighborhood. One common mistake people make is they believe that dogs they’ve seen or interacted with before will always interact with them in the same way, and that simply isn’t true. Any number of things could cause a dog to act out, even if there haven’t been any prior problems with that dog. The most important thing is to never think any dog is completely safe.”

Several residents noted that invisible fences can be very effective in keeping dogs on owner’s property. But opponents responded that invisible fences are commonly ineffective unless owners properly train their dogs to heed the fence lines to avoid an electrical shock and maintain the invisible fences properly. It was also noted that there is nothing to prevent children from crossing invisible fences to come onto neighbor’s property where they could be attacked by aggressive dogs.  

No action was taken on this matter, but it will be revisited at the next meeting of the Fairview Town Council on Wed., Oct. 2. It should be noted that the Fairview Oct. Council Meeting will not occur on the first Tues. of the month but will take place on Wed., Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall. The evening of Oct.1 is the annual National Night Out celebration.

In other matters, Bill Baxter of Baxter IT Services addressed the Council with a proposal to provide Fairview with survey results addressing the quality of Internet services in the town. Baxter noted that his company has been engaged by the Lucas City Council because Internet service in Lucas is substantially worse than it is in parts of Fairview.

Baxter currently serves on the Technology Committees of both Councils. The Fairview Town Council unanimously approved Baxter’s proposal and residents will soon be invited to participate in a town-wide survey that is designed as a first step in a series of potential solutions.  

Rick Bernas of Republic Waste Services, the town’s official waste removal vendor, briefed the Council on recycling issues and reminded the Council that a 3% increase in service fees will go into effect shortly as agreed to earlier. Bernas noted that only 38% of Fairview residents participate in recycling compared to the national average of 30%. Steps are taking place, according to Bernas, to increase the number of participating households.

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