News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, April 20, 2017
Roaming dogs drain animal control budget

by Rich Hewitt

There are about 350 dogs living in Stonington, but it’s just a handful of them that are roaming the streets.

That has resulted in an increase of complaints to the town’s animal control officer. Responding to those complaints and traveling to Ellsworth to deposit the offenders at the pound there has put the bite on the town’s animal control budget.

“There’s been a terrific increase in the number of dogs running loose, and that budget could end up being in trouble,” Town Manager Kathleen Billings said.

Recently, Billings said, the animal control officer was called back from Augusta because there were two dogs inside Burnt Cove Market. And during the day on Monday, a small dog harassed construction workers on Hagen Dock and a delivery man on Main Street.

“There’s a good five or six cases we’ve been dealing with for a long time,” she said. “The dogs are running loose all over the place. It’s just irresponsibility, but it’s going to cost us. We’re going to run out of money [in that account].”

The town contracts with the Small Animal Clinic in Ellsworth to accept stray dogs apprehended by the animal control officer. Stonington’s ordinances allow the town to charge the dog owners to cover those boarding and feeding costs. In response to questions from selectmen, Billings said the town can also fine the owners for allowing their dogs to run loose.

Issuing a citation, however, has its own costs since the animal control officer must file the complaints in Ellsworth and travel there for court proceedings. The town pays the ACO for his time and travel to deliver the animals to Ellsworth and for any legal proceedings. It has been those travel costs that have been draining the animal control budget, and Billings said she is researching now to see if the town can recoup those travel costs.

“I’m looking into what legally we can do,” she said.