A Ridgewood resident and president of the state's federated canine club says the village's effort to increase licensing fees onto owners of 'dangerous dogs' will not solve the problems it faces.
Addressing the council Wednesday night, Jeffrey Ball said the council's proposed ordinance to increase licensing fees of court-designated "dangerous dogs" to $700 misses the mark on several fronts.
"A true dangerous dog is a problem and needs to be dealt with in an appropriate way," Ball, the current president of the NJ Federation of Dog Clubs, said. "Just raising the licensing fee is not the answer."
According to Ball, a long-time resident, Ridgewood's belief that shifting the financial burden of monitoring a 'dangerous' dog onto the owner isn't statuatorily possible.
The village has argued a resident was before municipal court in December for a dog attack and health department staffers were concerned about the time they were spending on the case. Hence, the ordinance was recommended to village management.
But the state's statute requires only monthly checks of the animal and the cost cannot be passed on to the owner, Ball said.
"Increasing the dog licensing is not going to affect your liability, whether the state mandates a minimum of $150 or a maximum of $700," he added. "To increase it to $700 is not going to change whether a town is liable or not liable. The reason for the increase you're giving is not accurate."
The only way to guard against liability issues is to not deviate from state-recommended protocol, Ball said.
He also worried about the perception Ridgewood is being seen by outsiders as not being a pet-friendly town.
"Generally it's not the dogs that are the problem, it's the owner," Ball said.
"Education is the most important thing. This town could be a leader in this and I'd be the first one to volunteer...before upping this license let's look at the whole thing."
Councilwoman Gwenn Hauck defended against the stated perception the village sees animals as an adversary of sorts.
"Just like it's a child-friendly town and a family-friendly town, this is a pet-friendly town," she maintained, adding the council allowed a family to bring their dogs to a council meeting during the height of Super Storm Sandy.
Mayor Paul Aronsohn instructed village staff to meet with Ball to discuss possible educational opportunities.
The public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for Feb. 13 at 8 p.m.