As Waitsfield considers what to do about dogs at large and lost dog scenarios play out on social media sites, there are some things to keep in mind.
Dog ordinances are designed to protect people, dog owners and dogs by making sure our four-legged companions don't get separated from us, don't wander into the road, don't chase livestock and don't chase cars or kids on bikes.
Most dogs are good dogs 90 percent of the time, but all dogs have moments when they are less than – shall we say – perfect? Dog ordinances usually help when dogs go astray. If the owner's name or phone number is on the collar or tags, the dog warden or the person who finds the dog can call the owner and get the animals back where they belong.
If that doesn't work, the dog warden can be called and the dog taken to the local impoundment. It works most of the time, but when it doesn't, then what should happen?
This week, the aforementioned social media site, Front Porch Forum, was full of back and forth between members, one who lost a dog, one who had the lost dog and the official tasked with dealing with lost dogs. Drama aside, it points out how few times there are actually repeat issues with dogs and errant owners.
So, one wonders if it is necessary to issue tickets that are processed by the Vermont Judicial Bureau, as Waitsfield's ordinance would allow. Warren and Moretown have dog ordinances that call for tickets to be paid directly to the town. Those towns also have provisions for having a local hearing before the select board over contested tickets.
If dog tickets are processed in Montpelier, some town official or representative would have to go to Montpelier each time a ticket was contested. And whose word would be taken as truth when a ticket is contested? How will the town be able to avoid a "he said, she said" back and forth between owner and neighbor and dog warden over whether the dog was at large three times or five times or twice?
If a state trooper or sheriff pulls a driver over for speeding or crossing the center line, the incident is recorded via video and may be presented in court as a reason for issuing a ticket. Will there be similar provisions for animal control officers?