Dog Owners Want New Leash Fines Reined In

April 17, 2009|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,brent.jones@baltsun.com

About 100 dog owners gathered Thursday night at Riverside Park Pavilion in Federal Hill to protest the $1,000 fines for owners who allow their animals outside without a leash.

Animal control officers began issuing the costly citations this month. The amount is 10 times the previous fine for first-time offenders.

City Councilman Edward L. Reisinger held an open forum where he and Councilman William H. Cole IV listened to dozens of dog owners, who called the new fines "excessive" while arguing for off-leash early-morning hours in city parks.

The City Council approved the increased fines last year as part of a larger measure to raise fines for a variety of animal control violations. Reisinger said the original bill was to protect dogs from abuse and that the leash law was part of that bill. He told the crowd that he is co-sponsoring legislation to be introduced Monday to revamp the law and lower the fine to $250 for first-time offenders.

"My office got quite a few number of e-mails and phone calls stipulating that the fine was too high, and I can understand that," Reisinger said. "The answer isn't large fines. The answer is that the city needs to have more dog parks."

Since March, the city has cracked down on dogs without leashes, staging several raids.

Beth Krasucki, who lives on Covington Street a block from Riverside Park, said she was given a citation April 5 after a friend walked her dog without a leash in the park.

"It was like a sting operation," Krasucki said. "We plan on fighting this completely. I mean, $1,000? ... And there had been no information going around to even alert us of this."

Dog owners can appeal fines in Environmental Court.

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