Residents and town officials gathered Wednesday night in the Wheatfield Community Center in an attempt to give the local dog-control law more bite.
About 40 residents, many claiming to be dog lovers or owners, offered suggestions to members of the Town Board and animal-control officers on what could be done to make the law more effective to protect them from "dangerous dogs."
The meeting was set in October, when some residents demanded that the board take more aggressive action in dealing with dangerous dogs and their owners. In recent months, a few serious attacks have occurred, with dogs chasing and biting people who were out walking or jogging.
Although one case was taken to Town Court, residents and officials said they believe not enough is being done to protect the victim and punish the dog owner.
Of an estimated 6,000 dogs in Wheatfield, animal-control officers and town constables receive about 70 calls a year, officials noted.
Most of the calls involve violations of the leash law or concern about excessive barking. So far this year, fewer than 12 of those calls made it to court, according to Supervisor Timothy E. Demler.
He said even though residents and officials want stricter action, "it's the court, not the town," that makes the final determination and sets the fine.
However, the board could increase the penalties for violations of the law to give the court more power, it was noted. No definite fine amounts were suggested, but most residents said they should be increased significantly to deter violations.
Ellie Hayes told Demler she has been complaining for six years that a neighbor on Norman Road has been running a kennel with about 40 dogs. She said the mess and stench from the property is "unbearable." She said it is evident the owners are running a kennel because they neuter dogs in the driveway.
Demler said the situation is being addressed.
"A kennel doesn't belong in a residential area," he said. "You will be happy with the end result."
The revised law also may address a limit on the number of dogs allowed on a property.