HANOVER – It may not be perfect, but the Hanover Town Board decided to move forward with its solution for livestock running at large.
Residents and motorists on King Road have been complaining for years of cattle running at large and damaging crops. A few months ago, Councilman Kenneth Cross brought the matter to the town board’s attention once again.
Thinking of the safety of residents, who could be injured if the cow was struck in the road, the board decided to go forward with a law to regulate loose livestock.
The public hearing for local law 2 of 2014 was held Monday, with many of the town’s most prominent farmers in attendance.
The law bans a variety of livestock animals from wandering onto the public highway or private property and requires adequate fencing or restraints for animals. The penalties written into the law are $100 and/or 15 days in jail for the first offense, $200 and/or 15 days in jail for the second offense and $250 and/or 15 days in jail for any additional offenses. If an animal is not retrieved by the owner, it will be seized and taken to the SPCA, where after 10 days it will be auctioned to cover costs with any additional money going back to the owner.
Joe Falcone, of Falcone Farms, said he has been plagued by loose cattle in his crops for nearly five years, amounting to thousands of dollars in damage.
“It is time to do something,” he said. “It is getting old.”
Planning Board member Ron Brennan, a black angus farmer, said he sympathized with Falcone, but pointed out most cattle farmers are not the problem. He said he was concerned that even diligent farmers have a loose cow once in a while and will be punished for it.
Supervisor Todd Johnson said there is a clause in section 6 of the law which protects farmers that restrain their animals within a “reasonable” time of being notified.
Other farmers from Someday Maybe Farms agreed with Brennan that the law should be less inclusive of farmers whose animals accidentally get loose.
“What allowance is made for an ‘act of God?'” Shaun Lord asked.
Town Attorney Jeffrey Passafaro said if a farmer is issued a ticket, they can prove to a judge that they did not intentionally let their cow roam.
J.J. Kaye also pointed out that free-range chickens, a part of their business, would be affected by the law.
Johnson said this would likely not be an issue if the chickens are not a safety hazard.
The board talked about amending the law to include a warning for the first offense and an emphasis on intentionally allowing animals roam free.
“We can argue this until the cows come home,” Cross said.
In the end, the board decided to pass the law and hold another public hearing on Sept. 22 for the amendments.
The town board’s next board meeting will be Sept. 8.