by Terry Duffy
Lewiston Town Board members heard it from area dog breeders during a public hearing Dec. 13 en route to the town procedurally approving new Local Law No. 4 covering dog control.
But unlike a similar Porter hearing the same night that saw no comments, the Lewiston session did include complaints directed to Supervisor Steve Reiter and the board, at times spicing up what was otherwise a low-key, pre-holiday session.
Lewiston, like other municipalities, has taken on the logistics of dog licensing following the state's transferring of the task during its earlier budget debates this past spring. But unlike others in the area, Lewiston opted to tweak the fees a little, particularly with regards to breeders.
Under provisions of the dog control law, which went on to pass that night, Lewiston dog owners will pay $10 to license spayed/neutered dogs, up from $7.50, and $20 for unspayed/un-neutered dogs, up from $15. However, for those who hold purebred licenses, particularly those with a significant number of dogs in the town, those fees are spiking - from a flat fee of $100 for owners of 25 dogs to a fee of $500 or more. Current fees for breeders of 25 or fewer dogs stands at a flat $50.
The town has seven purebred license holders and board members heard their complaints that night. "It really adds up when you consider all the costs of breeding a dog," commented Kline Road breeder Tom Castillo, who asked the town's rationale for hitting on such a limited group.
"We take our business seriously," said Ridge Road breeder Steve Stevens, a breeder of Great Danes who told of quality control issues a breeder must contend with.
That comment was seconded by a Lower Mountain Road resident and breeder who spoke of the costs involved with raising her dogs for shows and to compete in championships.
Reiter told the group the town factored in anticipated revenue as it wrote up the new law, but added it had not fully taken into consideration the impact on breeders.
"It's not a money-making proposition for us," said Reiter to the residents, sounding sympathetic to their concerns. "We're not out to disrupt you; our intent is to prevent puppy mills."
Pointing out that Lewiston is the first community in Niagara County to have its own dog park, Reiter stressed to the group, "We're pro-dog."
Discussions followed; town Attorney Mike Dowd advised the board to pass the law and modify it as needed later on, while Town Board member Al Bax, responding to a suggestion of grandfathering in existing breeders, called it "a quick fix," and said the town needs to do more to correct the law.
Reiter agreed and the matter closed with board members Ron Winkley and Mike Marra assigned to work on addressing the breeders' fee concerns.
Soon after, the board unanimously approved the measure.
In other news, the board:
•Approved the seeking of sealed bids to acquire generators for the town Highway Department garage, Town Hall, and Lewiston Police administration building on the Lew-Port campus.
•Approved a low bid of $5,983.20 from CJ Sound for a new sound system in the Town Hall meeting room.
•Approved a 90-day extension deadline for the town to proceed with Upstate Cellular and Verizon Wireless on a cell tower application for West Street.
•Approved Reiter requests of fund transfers of: $59,000 for two highway department expenditures, $9,500 for haz-mat expenditures, and $6,000 for the Water Department to cover the costs of new meters.
•Announced that the regular Town Board meeting/final audit will take place Thursday, Dec. 30, at 6 p.m.
•Announced that it will hold a re-organizational meeting and its January work session on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011, at 6 p.m.