MEXICO — The Planning Board met Thursday evening with the town animal control officer and Police Department to discuss potential adjustments to the town’s animal control ordinance.

Much of the discussion centered around whether the town should increase fees for residents with nuisance dogs.

“Looking through the ordinance, it seems like some of our fees are kind of low,” board member Reggie Arsenault said. “Right now, we charge $10 for the first offense, $15 for the second offense and $25 for the third offense. It just seems like a very low number.”

Anne Edmunds, animal control officer, said the last time she issued a ticket for a barking dog was “two years ago.”

Planning Board member Mabel Merrill said she thought the fees for a nuisance dog should be increased to $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense and $250 for a third offense.

“You need to make it something that will make them think twice about ignoring the warnings,” Merrill said.

Arsenault later added that if the fees were increased, they should include the cost of the animal control officer’s travel to and from the resident’s home, and the fees associated with filling out paperwork.

“I think that the people who are causing problems should be paying restitution on top of the fees that they’re paying,” Arsenault said.

Police Chief Roy Hodsdon explained to the board that issuing a fine to residents for having a nuisance dog would be akin to issuing a parking ticket.

“You issue them a receipt and give them a reasonable amount of time to pay the fine,” Hodsdon said. “It’s up to you to decide how long to give them, but it needs to be enough time to be fair.”

Arsenault asked, “What would you consider a fair amount of time?”

“I don’t know, it all depends,” Hodsdon said. “I’d say 14 days, maybe 21 days.”

Edmunds said if the town gave residents 21 days to pay their fine, it would give individuals who get paid every other week an opportunity to pay it.

Hodsdon added, “As long as they’re making a reasonable effort to pay the fine, there’s not much else you can do.”

Merrill asked Edmunds whether she charged dog owners after the first time a complaint is received or if there was a specific procedure that she followed.

“I’d hate to see dog owners who have never had a problem in their life suddenly get tagged with a fine because their dog randomly started barking for whatever reason,” Merrill said.

“I’ll tell you what I tell the public: My job isn’t to hand out tickets,” Edmunds said. “My job is to get people to comply with the law. I always like to get both sides of the story when a complaint is filed. If I go to someone’s house with a loud dog, and they attempt to quiet their dog down by getting a no-bark collar, then I’m not going to do anything. If I have to keep coming back to your house, you’re obviously not listening to the message.”

Arsenault said he didn’t have a problem with dogs in general, but was frustrated with dog owners who allowed their dogs “to continue barking, even at midnight.

“I have a beagle that will howl at you if you sneeze the wrong way, so I know what it’s like to have a dog that barks,” Arsenault said. “It’s the dogs that bark from morning to night. They’re a nuisance.”

Later in the meeting, Arsenault said that he wanted all dog owners to walk their dogs on a leash.

Edmunds said, “I know some dog owners that work with their dogs diligently that would be offended if they were asked to put their dogs on a leash. Some dog owners can use voice control and their dogs will listen.

“However, people like that are not very common,” Edmunds said. “I’d have no problem if you guys wanted to add something to the ordinance that asked all dogs to be leashed.”

The Planning Board agreed to look in-depth at the animal control ordinance at its next meeting.

In other business, the board accepted the resignation of Albert Aniel.

Arsenault, who also serves on the Board of Selectmen, told the Planning Board a town ordinance prohibits having more than one selectman serve on the Planning Board.

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