HAMILTON: Pet limits law still hot topic for council

By James McEvoy, Managing Editor
   HAMILTON — Officials continue to discuss addressing the township ordinance as it relates to pet limits for residents.
   An ordinance, which would set limits on a sliding scale based upon lot size of a given property, was introduced at the Nov. 6 Township Council meeting.
   A resident on a property with 25,000 square feet would be allowed a limit of six pets. The figure also applies to rural properties.
   The limit under current ordinance is two.
   The regulation, if approved as currently written, would also include an exception for those fostering animals.
   Specifically, the ordinance reads the “limitation shall not apply to an operating farm or residents of a single-family detached dwelling who are members of a bona fide active 501c3 nonprofit animal rescue organization that fosters dogs and/or cats on a temporary basis.”
   Before the Township Council can hold a formal public hearing and adopt the ordinance, the Planning Board must also approve the measure due to it technically involving land use based on the fact the regulation is structured around different residential zones.
   Members of the Township Council suggested the ordinance may be up for adoption in early December.
   Officials also suggested the measure would be a reactive measure to ensure the township has some way to police incidents where residents don’t use common sense in caring for their pets.
   ”One of the problems is irresponsible pet owners,” said Lindsay Burbage, township attorney, who noted even before the proposed changes officials would only respond if a complaint were made. “If there is no limit on the number of pets then you really don’t have any immediate control.
   ”If you have a limit on the number I think it’s reasonable for everybody,” he added. “You don’t want government stepping in everywhere, but in this particular case we’ve raised the limit considerably for properties that are larger and raised the limit for everything but small homes and condos.”
   Councilman Dennis Pone agreed and called the ordinance a “tool.”
   ”You need some tool to deal with it,” Councilman Pone said. “You really don’t want it to escalate to a health problem.”
   The council vice president said he believes the law strikes a “reasonable balance” between pet owners and their neighbors.
   Resident Janice Glonek said there should be no limit in the number of pets a resident can have.
   ”The average person has enough sense to know what they can afford to feed,” Ms. Glonek said. “If I want to keep three sheep as pets and I can keep my house clean what’s the problem?”
   Council President Edward Gore and John Ricci, business administrator, both noted that not all people are able to effectively gauge how animals they can care for.
   ”That’s why we need to have some sort of limit,” Mr. Ricci said. “Because not everyone out there is realistic about they can handle their pets and their neighbors may not appreciate them having a significant number of pets.”
   Council President Gore noted the public forums, including the hearing before final adoption, are ways the township can continue to get input from residents on the matter.
   The Township Council discussed pet limits in July after rescue groups a pled for the council to amend the ordinance.
   ”Hamilton is the only township that has a two-animal rule,” Angela Gould, a long-time member of the Res-Q-Pets organization, said at the July 18 meeting.
   Members of the organization attended the meeting, upset that Ms. Gould had been issued a violation at her home on Locust Avenue, where she was said to be fostering about 30 animals. The rescue organizations called for a special ordinance that would give an exemption to those working with foster animals because they were doing a service to the community by helping the shelters to not overflow.