This might be a good time to get out of the habit of walking your dog in most parks in Salisbury Township.
Whether or not you know it, Franko is the only township park where dog are allowed -- and they are supposed to be kept on a leash in that park.
Township commissioners want to raise fines from $15 to $300 for first-time violators of Salisbury’s animal control laws.
That may happen after township Manager Randy Soriano, Police Chief Allen Stiles and solicitor John Ashley present them with an updated version of the township’s animal control ordinance.
Township officials took the initial steps toward toughening up that ordinance during their meeting Thursday night.
Stiles told commissioners many changes should be made. For example, he said the ordinance doesn’t require violators to pay restitution when a human or another animal has been attacked. “The state dog act does,” he noted.
Action is being taken following a Feb. 4 incident where township police had to kill a stray pit bull that attacked two people and injured a small dog.
After that incident, township commissioner Robert Martucci began questioning the current animal control ordinance. He’s concerned about public safety.
“I’m at a point where I think it should be zero tolerance for dog attacks,” said Martucci.
“They’re not just bite attacks,” added Ashley. “Dogs can cause problems without biting.”
“It could just be chasing a person down,” said Martucci.
Martucci wants the township to take the lead in dealing with dangerous animals, rather than waiting for state animal control officers to come in.
“Dogs running at large” is the biggest animal control issue faced by Salisbury police, said Stiles. “It doesn’t happen every day and it doesn’t happen in every neighborhood, but those are the calls we get.”
He indicated police also get complaints about dogs in parks, as well as owners not cleaning up after their pets. “It gets messy.” He said the proposed $300 fine will be the deterrent needed to keep people from taking their dogs to the parks.
Police can cite people now if they see them walking dogs in township parks, but the chief added: “Most of the time we don’t get complaints until people already have left a park.” He also said people who witness others with dogs in parks must be willing to testify at a hearing or the cases are thrown out.
Stiles said police did not like having to kill the pit bull on Feb. 4, “but there was no other way we could control the situation and make it safe for everybody. He ripped that other dog up really badly, it had to have surgery. And both people were bitten and had to have medical treatment.”
The township has only one part-time animal control officer: Charles Durner, Jr., who said he has worked for Salisbury for 55 years. Soriano said Durner also will help update the township’s ordinance.
Also during Thursday’s meeting, commissioners approved a formal policy regarding township police working for “private entities” – including Lehigh Valley Hospital, South Mall and Salisbury School District.
The chief endorsed the policy, saying “it’s something we need.”
Chief Stiles said township police have worked at school district events, such as dances and athletic competitions, for many years. He said three officers usually work at high school football games.
They also work at South Mall for two weeks around Christmas.
They are paid overtime by those places but are still uniformed police officers working for the township. “It’s just that, for that particular time, they are dedicating themselves to work in that area,” explained the chief.
Those entities pay an hourly overtime rate of each police officer, plus 41 percent of that rate for fringe benefits, plus a new five percent administrative fee.
The township is not making any profit on the policy.
Stiles believes hiring township police is more expensive than hiring private security, but noted those personnel still have to call police for major problems. “A security guard is not going to be able to make an apprehension.”
Stiles also said having an armed and uniformed police officer “is a heck of a deterrent. He’s able to take any kind of action that’s necessary.”
While working at football games, for example, the chief said police do drug enforcement, break up fights, make arrests for disorderly conduct, and check the safety of parking lots.
Stiles noted many other municipalities have similar policies, including Whitehall police working at the Lehigh Valley Mall.