What makes an animal a nuisance?
It’s a pretty broad question. The animal that annoys one person is likely to be counted as adorable by someone else.
So how does Springdale Township propose to tighten the reins on problem pets with the new animal control ordinance?
The plans look very structured. That seems very organized but possibly hard to handle in the long term.
The ordinance specifies dogs, cats, birds, “fowl or other animals,” so all the bases are covered. So are the infractions, with issues enumerated to cover smell, sound, and “unsanitary conditions which are a menace to the health, comfort and safety” of the locals.
OK, that sounds great. Nobody wants to live next to the smelly cat house or by the dog that is chained outside howling for 12 hours a day. But is it entirely practical?
Some of the rules seem to be written by someone who never had a pet and doesn’t understand that your dog will not understand that you have to go to work, and will really not understand when that first time written warning turns into hundreds of dollars in fines or up to 30 days in jail.
It might seem a little funny. What isn’t that amusing is the comment from police Chief Michael Naviglia, who responded to a resident with what was doubtless meant to be reassuring: “We deal with neighbors the best we can.”
That seems fairly arbitrary.
It also might be the least of Springdale’s problems.
Residents are organizing a committee to “address issues” with the five-member board of commissioners. Those issues include things like a fire truck being sold outside of the public eye, questionable water billing and a policy that sought to stop residents from asking questions about items that were on the agenda — or off it.
So the commissioners won’t listen to the residents, and now the residents are returning the favor. The commissioners aren’t invited to a meeting of concerned citizens planned for Thursday.
Organizers say they would like to see the board overhauled, either via resignation or removal. That might be as hard as getting dogs not to bark.
Elected officials have to listen to the people, and you can’t make an ordinance to simply silence residents who have a constitutional right to free speech.
Springdale’s real problem appears to be believing that a good hard tug on the leash is all it takes to get residents to heel. Kick a dog long enough, and he will bite.
Mutual respect might be the way to go. Sit. Stay. Speak.