Stray dogs are a fact of life in every municipality, but how to deal with wayward pups often varies from one community to another.
In Hellertown, stray dogs that are picked up by local authorities are typically transported immediately to the Center for Animal Health and Welfare, a Northampton County animal shelter that requires the borough to pay a $200 drop-off fee for each dog it brings there.
At Hellertown Borough Council's May 2 meeting, Police Chief Robert Shupp explained that paying this fee over and over can get expensive.
In many instances, he said, the dogs the police department transports to the Williams Township animal shelter have simply escaped from their owners' yards, and are likely to be picked up within hours of being dropped off at the shelter.
In cases such as these, he told council, it would be more convenient for the dogs' owners and more economical for the police department to temporarily house the dogs in a holding area somewhere in town.
"It wouldn't be (for them to) stay overnight (in)," he said. "It would just be during the day."
Shupp added that Bethlehem Township has a temporary holding area for stray dogs, and Public Works Director Tom Henshaw commented that years ago the borough maintained shaded pens for stray dogs.
The dogs that were picked up by the borough's animal control officer were temporarily kept in those pens and given food and water until their owners claimed them or they were taken to the animal shelter.
Shupp suggested an area near the grist mill as a possible location for a pen in which to temporarily keep stray dogs.
Borough Council Solicitor Michael Corriere, however, expressed some reservations about the idea.
Corriere noted that in Pennsylvania dogs are considered property, which could spell potential legal issues for the borough if the police department would take even temporary possession of them.
Council President Phil Weber asked Corriere to further examine the idea and to return to council with a report on the legal ramifications of a pen for the temporary holding of stray dogs in the borough.
"It sounds like a good idea, but let's just make sure we can do it now," Weber said.