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New Berlin officials could loosen dog rules

Oct. 30, 2012

New Berlin - New Berlin officials seem to be moving away from the city's limit of four dogs per home without a dog fanciers license and away from the fanciers license all together.

Both were enacted by the Common Council last year as part of a comprehensive reform of the rules affecting dogs.

The reason for possibly dropping the limit on the number of dogs is twofold.

One is that it was said to be unfair to infringe on the freedom of pet owners if they can take care of more dogs and if they aren't a nuisance to neighbors.

The other is that such limits haven't held up under court challenges, City Attorney Mark Blum advised the council.

The measures will come up for a third reading at an upcoming Common Council meeting.

Alderman Ken Harenda tended to want to keep the fanciers license just because it offers a quick and effective way to deal with nuisance complaints. The city can always threaten to revoke the license.

Without that, nuisance complaints could still be dealt with by fining the dog owner, Blum said. But after repeated violations, the city would have to go to circuit court to have a dog or dogs actually removed, he said.

"Nuisance cases aren't the easiest to win," Blum said.

But in this case, the job should be relatively easy, said Alderwoman Deena Liska, who chaired the committee that developed the ordinance and then proposed the modifications to it. The committee intentionally wrote specific criteria the city would need to prove nuisance into the ordinance, she said.

"The tools are there," she said. They pertain to not only barking but to odor and other problems.

The rules changes the council is contemplating also would have owners appeal the designation of a dog as dangerous to the municipal court instead of to the Common Council.

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