Ordinance amendment proves to be a real dog

HOWELL — A so-called dog-barking ordinance amendment has failed to garner enough support, with two members of the Township Council complaining that it had no teeth.

If the amendment is resurrected again, Councilman Joseph M. DiBella said he wants it to include a set time frame in which barking would warrant a citation, and Councilwoman Cynthia Schomaker said she wants a defined duration of continued barking.

The latest amendment proposal did not include those provisions, although variations of those requirement do exist in the ordinance now on the books and in several amendment proposals.

With Councilman Peter Tobasco absent from the council’s Nov. 23 meeting, the vote was 2-2, with Mayor Timothy J. Konopka and Councilman Juan Malave voting in favor of the amendment.

Municipal officials have been toying with different versions of the same amendment since last summer, with time limits proposed, eliminated, then proposed again.

For example, a previous version of the amendment proposed an 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. time period during which a violation could occur.

Under the current ordinance, which was adopted last January, a dog owner faces a municipal summons only if his dog “barks, howls or yelps” for a period of more than 20 continuous minutes between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. or for a period of more than 15 continuous minutes between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The amendment that died two weeks ago eliminated that established time period and had stated a violation would occur if a dog, “habitually barks or cries for a period of not less than 10 minutes in a manner which disturbs or interferes with or annoys the peace and tranquillity of the neighborhood.”

In a previous statement, Township Attorney Thomas Gannon said the most recent amendment was developed in order to give the municipal court judge “better flexibility” when hearing dog-barking complaints.

Despite the fact that the amendment became an issue as a result of complaints between neighbors reaching a near boiling point, no one from the public made any comment during the most recent public hearing on the issue.

Schomaker said she believes the ordinance should contain a time frame established along with the 10-minute barking duration.

Malave reminded Schomaker the time frame was eliminated in order to leave it to the judge to decide whether a nuisance violation had been established.

DiBella, who will become mayor in January, said he favored keeping the 10-minute barking duration time proposed in the last revision of the amendment, but wanted to see the 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. time frame reinserted in the language of the amendment, saying it reflected “responsible guidelines.”

— Kathy Baratta