Neighbors may soon have an app for that, but for now the town's animal control officer has more authority to handle the creatures.
Brookline's Selectmen took the first step by unanimously voting to designate the animal control officer, Pierre Verrier, as a Problem Animal Control (PAC) Agent. This grants him additional power in handling animals which have been deemed a problem.
"By doing so, we are granting that agent some specific powers to deal with an animal who has attacked a human being or showed signs of being sick." Selectman Ken Goldstein described it as "a no-brainer" saying "it's easy to do, and there is certainly no downside."
PAC agents may harass, take, and destroy, or may release or liberate on site certain non-domesticated reptiles, birds, and mammals the actions of which have or are endangering the life and health of humans or domestic animals; damaging the property of a person, obstructing the reasonable and comfortable use of property by the owner or tenant thereof or otherwise producing such material annoyance, inconvenience, and discomfort that can reasonably be presumed to result in damage or hurt to persons or their property.
The laws are not clear about when an animal becomes a "problem", Goldstein noted. However, he also pointed out that police officers do not--technically--have power to do something about an animal seen foaming at the mouth.
The vote is only one step of Goldstein's three-pronged action plan, which includes educational, administrative and legislative changes. The PAC agent is the first step in the administrative changes. Dr. Alan Balsam, Director of the also recommended a town-wide ban on feeding wild animals--which would require a warrant article and a .
Educational changes will aim to bring more awareness about the coyotes' presence, how to , and what residents can do about them. The will be made to include coyote sightings as an option. In areas with a high frequency of reports, Goldstein suggested leaving door-hanger packets of coyote information.
"If you look at the regulations, you will easily go blind." Goldstein said, discussing the needed legislative changes. "They are as complicated as anything you will see. It needs a rewrite, and needs to be something town administrators and police can follow--clear instructions on what can and can’t be done."
Town officials will push representatives to work on coyote control laws at a state level. Without those changes, Goldstein says, residents may not see a lasting impact on the . He added that some funding will also need to be devoted to this.
Anne Tolkoff, who held a meeting at her home with , complimented Goldstein on his action plan.
Said Tolkoff, "People felt disheartened, and like we were not being listened to. This is the first real response, which is not just 'our hands are tied.'"
Selectman Chair Betsy DeWitt commented that the legislative hand-tying has been an excuse for towns for too long.
[Correction: A previous version did not note that a town-wide feeding ban would need to be passed at town meeting to go into effect. 5:57 p.m., Jan. 20]