Douglas Dog Lovers May Soon See Law Change Allowing Up To Four Per Household
Good news for dog lovers in Douglas: the city is drafting an ordinance amendment proposal that allows for four dogs, two more than the current limit per household.
“Nothing could have made me happier,” said Rob Surina, whose problems with a neighbor brought the issue to the forefront, told The Local Observer Tuesday.
Surina and partner Penny VanDyke, residents at Wilderness Ridge who own three Shetland Sheepdogs (a breed known as the Sheltie), were issued a $50 civil infraction in violation of the city’s two-dog limit.
“Right now we (city staff) are not enforcing the existing ordinance in anticipation you (Douglas City Council) are going to change it,” said Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere.
“It’s clear there may be a better answer other than two (dogs),” he said, pushing council to provide a number and noting the city knows about residents—some say a lot—that have more than two dogs.
The draft will specify the number four, but council could decide and vote on a limit of three dogs when the proposal is presented in a future meeting.
A four-dog limit would be comparable with the other area’s municipalities—the City of Saugatuck allows four dogs per household and Saugatuck Township allows four dogs per five acres or less and one additional dog if a property owner has more acreage.
Council members’ responses to LeFevere’s request for input were varied, but all agreed the nuisance issue had to be addressed.
“I have no problem with four dogs as long they are not a bother to anyone,” said Douglas City Manager Bill Japinga.
“I have one dog now. I had three dogs before while on council, but if someone had told me I couldn’t have three, I think I would not be on council right now,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Harvath.
“I am of the opinion that the number doesn’t matter, nuisance and enforcement is more important,” said Douglas City Council Member Gerald Schmidt.
To which LeFevere responded, “We have rules to address nuisance in the books now.”
Even so, he explained that any new amendment—however council votes on it—would include language that specifically talks about nuisance vis-à-vis dogs.
At the last council meeting the issue was left up in the air, with no clear direction what the city’s next step was going to be.
Surina and VanDyke said they left the meeting confused. They have been calling on officials for help, saying they had done everything they could to alleviate neighbor concerns—debarking two of the three Shelties and installing an underground fence.
And more recently they’ve taken further steps in consideration of their neighbors and to be responsible pet owners.
“Penny and I have installed a sound barrier, called peacemaker, at a great expense. And the older dog is scheduled for debarking on the third (of August). We have talked to the vet and he thinks he’ll (the older dog) be okay with the anesthesia,” noted Surina.