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Dog lovers bark back at council’s proposed ordinance

Staff writer

Disgruntled dog owners packed the city council room Tuesday to register their complaints about a proposed new dog ordinance.

The ordinance sets new rules for residents who keep dangerous dogs. Although the ordinance specifies behavior that can result in a dog being deemed “dangerous,” it also lists l2 specific breeds and “any dog … that has the appearance and characteristics of any of the breeds listed” which could be considered “capable of inflicting life-threatening injuries.”

One man said he keeps dogs in his fenced-in back yard to protect his property, and that his dog would be considered “dangerous” if it bit an intruder.

Another man said the breeds listed are all large breeds and he could protect himself from a large dog better than he could a small dog.

Several people said they object to a list of breeds being part of the ordinance.

“I think there is a little misunderstanding of those 12 breeds,” said city attorney Joshua Boehm.

Boehm explained the breeds are not themselves considered “dangerous” but that the city’s burden to prove a dog is “dangerous” is lower with those breeds.

“It’s not an outright ban on these breeds,” Boehm said.

One woman complained that the wording of the ordinance is “too open.”

“The way you have this worded leaves it to a very small group of people to decide,” she said.

The ordinance also states that no dog will be declared potentially dangerous for injuring a person committing a crime on the dog owner’s property or teasing, tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog. They also cannot be declared dangerous if the dog was protecting a person from an attack or assault, or if it injures an animal at large or that was the aggressor in an altercation.

One woman said police had shot a family dog standing up against a fence after someone reported it had hurt a teen.

Police chief Dan Kinning, present for the meeting, said the police had not had such an incident.

Another woman said she’s OK with the ordinance but thinks the city needs be better enforcement of dog licensing.

“This policy doesn’t need to deal with any breed,” she said. “It needs to address each dog personally.”

One man said he would like to see the city change its policy that a dog running at large is put down if its owners cannot be found in three days. The proposed ordinance doesn’t address how long a dog is kept after being found running at large.

Mayor Lou Thurston thanked people for coming to voice their concerns and asked council members if they would feel better about the matter if the list of breeds was removed from the ordinance.

The council voted to table the ordinance until May 6.

The proposed ordinance specifies dangerous dogs must be kept confined or wear a leash and muzzle when not confined.

Owners must prominently display a “beware of dog” sign, obtain a $50 “dangerous dog” license, carry $100,000 liability insurance for injury or damage caused by the dog, and have the dog spayed or neutered and microchipped.

The list of breeds the ordinance calls “capable of inflicting life-threatening injury includes American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Argentine dogo, cane corso, chow, dogue de bordeaux, Doberman pinscher, fila brasileiro, German shepherd, perro de presa canario, rottweiler, Staffordshire bull terrier, and any dog that has the appearance and characteristics of any of those breeds.

The proposed ordinance also increases fines for dogs running at large. Fine start at $50 for a first offense and increase to $500 for a fifth offense, with offenses counted against the owner, not particular dogs.

If a dog creates a disturbance or nuisance, the owner can be fined $10 to $100.

Council members Tuesday also heard a county fair board request to have a beer garden in conjunction with the demolition derby event at the county fair.

After questioning them about security, the number of beers patrons would be allowed to purchase, and whether Marion has had problems caused by a beer garden at an annual event, council members tabled the issue until their May 1 meeting in order to gather more information.

Last modified April 4, 2018

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