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EAST GOSHEN — It may not be a new concept for East Goshen Township, but the supervisors did solidify Tuesday night that they want to make sure a capped limit stays on the number of dogs allowed per household.
In a 3-2 vote, the supervisors approved a new ordinance limiting the number of dogs in a household to four and allowing an additional dog per each additional acre of lot area in excess of two acres for single family detached dwellings on three-plus acres of land.
However, the ordinance was not approved to go into effect — just approved to go on to the next step of going through the East Goshen Planning Commission and the Chester County Planning Commission.
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Since the 1980s, the township put into place a limit of four dogs per household, but after an incident last October where two people were attacked by dogs which had gotten loose, the supervisors discovered they had an issue with the ordinance.
“In the process of looking at various information about the dog law in Pennsylvania, we discovered that if you’re going to limit the number of dogs in your ordinance, you have to have the justification for that,” said Marty Shane, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “Our solicitor said we didn’t (have the justification), so if we were to be challenged in court, we would probably lose.”
Once the board realized the lack of justification, they implemented the municipal cure procedure, giving the board six months to enact a new ordinance or adopt a resolution stating that the current ordinance is valid.
Two ordinances — one with a four-dog limit and one which removes any numerical limit — were drafted and up for debate amongst the supervisors.
With supervisor Carmen Battavio absent at the June 16 meeting, the four other supervisors were split down the middle and had to table the vote until July.
“The ordinance that limits the number of dogs that a person can keep on their property, I am opposed to for a variety of reasons,” said supervisor Charles Proctor, III, at the June meeting. “That’s not the issue here. When it comes to keeping a dog on a leash or keeping it under control or cleaning up dog waste or keeping the noise down, I think that is appropriate What’s next? Are we going to limit the number of children or the number of people in your house? I just am not in favor of it.
“We may have had an issue with some dogs that were vicious or uncontrolled and caused some harm, but it had nothing to do with the number of dogs. Since that has not appeared to be an issue, I don’t see the need.”
Senya Isayeff, also a supervisor, agreed with Proctor.
“We’re doing this because the dog owner couldn’t control his or her dog,” he said in June. “It was an isolated event and now we’re going to ask 8,500 homeowners in this community to limit their number of pets.”
However, Shane and Janet Emanuel were on the opposite side.
“As much as you folks may be passionate about not having a number to restrict the number of dogs, I am equally passionate, despite the fact that I love dogs, that we must have a number that is reasonable under the circumstances,” Shane said in June. “I believe we have to have a number. As a matter of fact, all the time on this board, I’ve never had anybody come down here to ask us to increase the number of dogs that they’re allowed to have.”
Emanuel was one of the supervisors who was on the board during the time when the original ordinance with the limit was passed in ‘80s.
At that time, she agreed with the limit and she still does now.
“I helped get the original four in in the 1980s, so I think it’s not unreasonable to limit the number of dogs,” she said. “Yes, one dog can do damage, but a pack of dogs can do a (heck) of a lot more damage.”
Since 61 percent of the dwellings in the township are apartments, townhouses or independent living units in a care development and of the single-family detached and semidetached dwellings, 59 percent are on lots of less than one acre, Shane felt having a limit was reasonable.
At the July 7 meeting, with Battavio present, he became the swing vote and was on the side of Shane and Emanuel with keeping the limit.
Once the ordinance gets through the two planning commissions in the coming months, the township will schedule a public hearing where residents are invited to voice their opinions before the supervisors vote to enact the ordinance.