The Maplewood Board of Health, made up of the members of the Township Committee, decided not to pursue an ordinance giving the department authority to order muzzles on aggressive dogs.
During a Board meeting on Sept. 3, the Board decided to drop the ordinance.
Health Officer Robert Roe (whose department is in charge of animal control in Maplewood) previously explained that Maplewood has situations from time to time where dogs are aggressive towards others dogs or people. The state has laws on the books under Title IV against “potentially dangerous” and “vicious” dogs, but the process of classifying a dog as such is not unlike a criminal trial, according to Roe, in which the burden of proof is on the township.
“We have gone to court in the past to [classify dogs as ‘dangerous’],” Roe said in August. “But there are other situations where maybe the dog isn’t as bad as state regulations but is a danger. The way to prevent that danger would be to have the dog wear a muzzle.”
The proposed ordinance would not have required muzzles on all dogs, just ones about which people file complaints.
“If you have an issue, you have to go to court and you have the opportunity to make your case and prove that your dog isn't vicious and somebody has to go through the trouble of proving that the dog is,” said Township Committee member Jerry Ryan. “If the dog is found to need this treatment then the dog gets the treatment.”
“(This ordinance) sounds like you are taking away the persons right to be heard about their situation, which doesn't seem fair,” he added.
Township Committee members and Roe were all in agreement with Ryan.
“There doesn't seem to be any support for this,” said Mayor Victor De Luca.
Ultimately it was decided to drop the ordinance.