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The city will soon take a bigger bite out of the wallets of people who own unlicensed and unruly dogs.

The Common Council is expected to vote Tuesday to dramatically increase fines for dog-related offenses. Most penalties would more than double, and some would triple.

For example, fines for having an unlicensed dog would increase to $25, up from $11. The same increase would apply to owners who let their dogs run loose or who fail to properly restrain dogs on their properties.

Nuisance fines, such as letting dogs bark for long periods, would go from $16 to $25. Failing to report the death or transfer of a dog would carry a $20 fine, as opposed to $6 now.

Meanwhile, a new strategy is being proposed to help crack down on what some call an epidemic of unlicensed dogs in the city.

Building inspectors might soon be on the lookout for more than just peeling paint and wobbly railings.

City Clerk Charles M. Michaux, who oversees dog licensing, wants inspectors to start citing the presence of dogs "during their normal course of business." The information, he said, could be key to helping the city compile a list of unlicensed dogs.

"It would also give the City of Buffalo insight on how many potentially dangerous dogs are out there," Michaux said.

The president of the union that represents building inspectors said he thinks employees would be open to discussing the new policy, as long as it doesn't create more paperwork or eat up a lot of time.

Kevin Fitzgerald of Local 2651, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said it's important for inspectors to focus on housing code enforcement and not be sidetracked by "woof-woof sounds" that emanate from properties.

Inspections Commissioner Raymond K. McGurn said his department will do what it can to combat what is viewed as a growing dog problem in Buffalo. But he said inspectors won't be able to do much more than pass on addresses to animal control officers.

"And we also have to be careful about how we identify properties," said McGurn. "Just because there's dog (excrement) in a driveway doesn't mean that that person owns a dog."

No one is sure of the precise number of unlicensed dogs in Buffalo; estimates range from 25,000 to 60,000.


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