Monmouth voters will soon reconsider a little-known rule that limits how many grown dogs can be kept as pets by each property owner.

Monmouth residents now are allowed to keep no more than five pet dogs, according to an animal control ordinance that was passed in 2007. But many local officials did not know of that rule until late last fall, when police discovered that a local man was breaking it and he asked the selectmen for an exemption.

After that man, Edwin Bazinet, appeared before the Select Board, Vice Chairman Tim McDonald proposed repealing the five-pooch limit. The Select Board voted 3-2 in support of McDonald’s proposal at a meeting this month, and the repeal now will be subject to voter approval Town Meeting on June 13.

“I read the article again and saw there’s not a limit on any other type of livestock,” McDonald said this week. “I thought it was a ridiculous limitation and another example of over-regulation.”

But two selectmen, Douglas Ludewig and Sandra Schiller, opposed rolling back the limit on the grounds that they’ve received no complaints about it in the past and that it could still prove useful in the future.

“I thought the present ordinance had been working well and that it was a restriction that had been well thought out,” said Ludewig, chairman of the Select Board. “They (dogs) can be a nuisance for the neighbor. We’ve lived near somebody with a lot of dogs, and we know what it’s like.”

He added, “My daughter has chickens and ducks, and dogs came and killed them.”

A public hearing about the proposed change will be held at 6 p.m. May 17 at Cumston Hall, according to Town Manager Curtis Lunt.

Neither Monmouth police Chief Kevin Mulherin nor Lunt knew why the limit was included in the town’s animal control ordinance when it was adopted 10 years ago.

The limit applies only to dogs that are older than 4 months old, and it’s part of a larger set of rules that governs a number of aspects of animal control.

Another section outlines nuisance behavior by animals that can be punished, including excessive barking, failing to license pets and failing to dispose of excrement. The ordinance also prohibits pets from being allowed to chase vehicles or attack other animals. Violations are punishable by fines of at least $75.

Those other sections would not be affected by the proposed rule change.

The Maine Municipal Association did not have information about how many towns and cities limit the number of dogs that can be owned, but a Web search suggests that Monmouth isn’t alone. Cities such as Lewiston and Auburn limit residents to having no more than three dogs. But at least one town, Hampden, appears to have repealed a dog limit in 2002.

Mulherin said Monmouth police have not received any complaints about residents exceeding the dog limit, but that officers do sometimes respond to complaints about barking dogs and dogs on the loose.

Police learned of the limit after responding to a complaint that dogs had roamed onto a neighbor’s property on Warren Road, Mulherin said. When the town’s animal control officer responded, he discovered that Edwin Bazinet had at least seven dogs on the property, and also that Bazinet hadn’t licensed some of them.

Police issued a summons to Bazinet for the latter violation, Mulherin said, but not for exceeding the dog limit. Some of the dogs belonged to other family members, and Bazinet told police that he would attempt to move them off the property, Mulherin said.

Bazinet could not be reached for comment for this story.

Both Mulherin — who has not taken a position on the proposed rule change — and McDonald said there are other rules in the animal control ordinance that will allow police to ensure that dogs aren’t creating nuisances or destroying property.

The only way someone in Monmouth may have more than five dogs legally now is by getting licensed as a kennel, according to Mulherin. Licensed kennels are regulated by the state.

Another Monmouth official who supported rolling back the five-dog limit, Selectwoman Darlene Sanborn, said she has four pet chihuahuas that spend most of their time indoors.

“Who are we to decide how many dogs they have in their household, if they want to have five dogs, six dogs, seven dogs, and they’re not running into people’s yards?” Sanborn said. “It’s not the number of dogs they have; it’s the behavior of the dogs. If the people are responsible and are being good dog owners, there shouldn’t be any issues.”

Sanborn also said she thinks removing the limit could encourage more residents to adopt dogs that don’t have homes.

But Selectwoman Sandra Schiller, who wants to preserve the existing limit, said she worries that allowing more than five pet dogs could prevent owners from giving the animals adequate attention, which could in turn lead to neglect. She also said the current rules seem well thought-out and have created no problems in the past.

Schiller pointed to the recent case in which a Skowhegan woman was arrested after 11 dogs were found living in poor conditions at her home.

“You could have 20 cats, and the cats probably wouldn’t even care,” Schiller said. “But if you have 20 dogs, that’s like a herd.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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