Johnstown Village Council's announcement Tuesday that it would toss out legislation to limit the number of pets residents could keep in their homes was met with a round of applause by most of those in the crowded meeting chamber.

Johnstown Village Council's announcement Tuesday that it would toss out legislation to limit the number of pets residents could keep in their homes was met with a round of applause by most of those in the crowded meeting chamber.

Legislation under consideration had sought to limit the total number of pets to four per household. That language was eliminated from the ordinance, but most of the dozens of residents who spoke during a public hearing still had concerns about other animal- and pet-related action proposed by the village.

Changes to Johnstown's Chapter 505 Animal and Fowl provisions under Ordinance 090-08 remain "tabled" after Tuesday night's hearing.

The two topics most debated were regulations about the classification of vicious or dangerous dogs, and a leash law that would require that dogs be tethered by leashes no longer than six feet.

Julie Hosley, a Pershing Drive resident and dog trainer/behaviorist, emphasized the importance of exercise for dogs and the difficulty of doing so on such a short line.

"Six feet is not going to do it," Hosley said, noting that people with limited mobility would be at a loss to exercise their dogs at all under such a strict regulation. "It's just not workable."

Several residents spoke out against breed-specific language in regard to the description of "vicious dogs" in the legislation which specifies "pit bull or a pit bull mixed-breed dog."

Resident Lisa Dudley suggested such a distinction won't increase public safety because it "doesn't address the problem or its source." She said enforcing such a rule would be "expensive and counter-productive," a sentiment echoed by several residents who said the village could find itself faced with the cost of DNA testing to verify a dog's breed.

After those in attendance offered many other suggestions and concerns, council President Kevin Riffe suggested leaving the legislation on the table while council sits down in a work session with animal rescue and other experts who have offered their help in recent weeks.

"We'll get some assistance on this, shape it up," Riffe said.

Among those who offered that assistance was Paula Evans of Johnstown's Second Chance Humane Society. She said she would help the village in any way she could to set up a trap-neuter-return (TNR) or spay/neuter clinic program for cats while also trying to educate the community about responsible pet ownership in general. She cited several concerns with both the premise and language of parts of the ordinance. Evans said she agrees with issuing fines for some offenses, but noted those are already in place in the Ohio Revised Code.

In other business, council unanimously approved a five-year plan for rate increases for water and water debt, as well as sewer and sewer debt, with the only immediate increase affecting water rates in 2009.

Those water rates will increase from the current $7.75 to $9.40 for minimum users next year. Residents using more than 2,000 gallons of water will pay an additional $4.70 per month, an increase from $3.70.

Village Manager Sarah Phillips said the village tries to project rates out five years.

"When we were building so much in Johnstown, we didn't need to raise rates," she said. Now, she added, "we're not building." She said the water rate has to go up right away because the cost of treating water "skyrocketed."

Resident Mary Dodrill said the increase will hurt those who are already losing their jobs and whose homes are in jeopardy. Phillips said the gradual increase was designed to help offset that burden.

Council will modify its regular meeting schedule in December to meet on Dec. 2 and Dec. 9 to adopt a new budget. Council will have its next regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4 in council chambers.