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Tag: william cole

Say Chow (or ciao) to those $1,000 fines

 

Baltimore’s $1,000 fine for letting a dog of its leash is, effectively, a thing of the past — if even that.

A city council committee yesterday — saying the amended penalty was passed by mistake — approved lowering the fine to $200 on a first offense, and promised that, for all 35 of the $1,000 tickets issued between the beginning of April and May 8, violators will have to pay no more than $200.

The new three-tiered fine — $200 for first offense, $400 for a second, $600 for a third — still requires approval by the full council, but little opposition is expected.

In opening the hearing, at which more than a dozen dog owners testified, Council Member James Kraft said, “This fine, very frankly … was a mistake. We were amending provisions of the law that were dealing with cruelty to animals and we increased penalties because some of these penalties were very old penalties. They weren’t acting as deterrents.

“Inadvertently, because that section had a lot of other provisions in it, that thousand dollar fine went across a much broader spectrum than we knew.”

Upon learning of what they had done, Kraft said, the council took steps to ask that the fine not be levied against violators.

Nevertheless, 35 $1,000 citations were handed out by the city’s office of Animal Control, with support from the police department — 23 of them since April 28.

“For those who have said that maybe this was a fundraising measure on behalf of the city, please be advised it clearly was not,” Kraft said.

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Baltimore leash law debated on radio

Baltimore city’s leash law – and the new $1,000 fine violators of it face – was alternately blasted and defended on WEAA’s Marc Steiner Show last night as four guests and numerous caller-inners voiced their opinions and offered solutions.

The city increased the leash law fine from $100 to $1,000 in February, then followed up with a crackdown on violators.

William Cole, the city councilman who, though he was among those approving the increased fines, is now seeking to have them lowered, and said last night that the majority of the council feels the same way.

Cole has also introduced an amendment to allow the city Recreation and Parks Department establish off-leash hours in designated areas of city parks.

Cole said he favors fines of $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second, and $1,000 for a third. But he also said, at one point, “I would hope that any animal control officer responding to a complaint is first going to give a warning.”

Cole also displayed some excellent hair-splitting skills when he said that the new law, while it does produce new revenue for the city, “is not a revenue-producing bill.”

And he was slightly off the mark when he assured listeners that a dog park in Latrobe Park in Locust Point – the first the city has chosen to take part in opening – would be ready in “in the next couple weeks … two months?” Mary Porter, design planner for the city Department of Recreation and Parks, then corrected him, saying, “end of the summer.”

Also on the program were Judith Kunst, a single mother and dog owner involved in the petition effort to reduce the fines (1,316 signatures so far), and Robert Joyce, a dog owner and lawyer who has offered to represent, pro bono, anyone fined $1,000 for having their dog off leash.

You can hear the podcast here.

Cole admitted that the city council wasn’t aware it was increasing the off-leash fine when it approved the bill, saying it was included in a category marked “other offenses” that no one seems to have bothered to look into. “Quite frankly, we didn’t pick up on it,” he said.

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Bark now, or forever hold your leash

 

Dogs bark when something’s amiss. We humans sign petitions. The time has come to do a little of both.

Not to many working people have the leeway to attend a 10 a.m. City Council meeting, but for those who can, Tuesday’s meeting in city hall represents a rare opportunity to let city leaders know not just that their $1,000 fine for an off leash dog is out of line, but that the time has come to make this a more dog-friendly city.

How? By coming through with promised dog parks, by instituting off leash hours, at least on an experimental basis at a city park or two, and by not dumping on that substantial population of voters that has dogs.

Petitions calling upon the city to reduce the recently imposed $1,000 fine for letting a dog off its leash are now circulating around town and online. You can find, and sign, the online version here.

At tomorrow’s meeting the city will take up a proposal to reduce the fine. Also introduced will be an amendment authored by council member William Cole that would allow the city’s director of recreation and parks to enact off leash hours at city parks — something that currently can’t be done because of the leash law. Cole’s amendment would exempt city-approved off leash hours from the law.

Of course, that doesn’t mean off leash hours will be approved, only that they can be.

Cole said he expects the fine reduction and the off-leash authorization to eventually be approved by the council.

“Yes, I believe that both will get support for a majority of the Council,” he said. “There appears to be rather broad support for the off-leash language, but I haven’t started counting votes.”

Tuesday’s meeting is a hearing (on Bill 09-0322) before the Judiciary & Legislative Investigations Committee. The committee is chaired by Councilman Jim Kraft, and its other members are Robert Curran, Rikki Spector, Agnes Welch and Cole.

The meeting is in the City Council Chambers on the 4th floor of City Hall. (A picture ID required for admission to City Hall.)