Group to meet again next week to continue discussion of proposed 14-page plan

By Terri Harber

The first draft of a proposal titled "Dangerous and Vicious Dogs" has been sent out to members of an advisory committee being guided by Police Chief Wyn Lohner.

The committee will meet again next week to discuss what Lohner has put together based on their comments.

The dog-mauling death of 5-year-old Jordan Ryan on Sept. 27 prompted city councilors to consider finding ways to decrease the likelihood of similar dog attacks. A pit bull was responsible for the boy's death.

Included in the 14-page document is the explanation that dogs declared dangerous or vicious won't be licensed unless the owner pays a fee set by the city councilors and a filing of a compliance certificate and an insurance policy.

And a "problem pet owner" wouldn't be given a license for a dog considered dangerous or vicious.

Allowing a dog to bite or otherwise attack people and other animals would be prohibited. The draft states that a person bitten by a "domestic animal" must report the incident to the police department "immediately."

If another incident of biting or attacking occurs after the owner receives a warning for the first - and the dog is declared by a hearing officer as a "public nuisance" - it might be impounded by police or an animal control officer until the investigation concludes or a hearing officer makes a decision about the case.

Exempted are service dogs, herding dogs and police dogs - at least if their behavior provides the basis for a declaration of public nuisance "while the dog was performing its duties as expected."

Dangerous behaviors are described in this version of the draft ordinance and include biting; causing injury; and unprovoked approaching or chasing in "a menacing fashion."

Further explanation of this danger is when the dog "otherwise behaves in a manner that a reasonable person would believe poses a serious, unjustified, and imminent threat of physical injury or death to a Person, a Domestic Animal, or Livestock."

There are special circumstances noted for these behaviors. Examples include when the person attacked was "committing or attempting to commit a crime against the owner or custodian of the dog or member of its household" and if the person was "tormenting, abusing, assaulting, or physically threatening the dog or its offspring."

Some dogs that exhibit vicious behavior would be allowed exceptions similar to those allowed for some dangerous behaviors.

Lohner wrote this draft version with a choice for the councilors to make regarding dangerous dogs.

One option would be whether the ordinance should focus on declaring dangerous known pit bull breeds. The other would be allowing a hearing officer or court to hear and weigh evidence before declaring a dog dangerous - no matter its breed.

Restrictions proposed for dangerous dogs include keeping it indoors or, when outdoors, "either within an enclosure or within a fully-fenced yard enclosed on all sides" by a secure and locked fence at least 6 feet high.

When the dog is out in public it must be "directly controlled and supervised by an adult at least 18 years of age." The dog would have to be on a 6-foot-long retractable leash attached to a harness and securely muzzled.

Further, this draft states that a dangerous dog "is not allowed to be present at any community event or on any city owned property."

These dog owners also would have to do such things as post signs outside their homes letting others know a dangerous canine resides within, have the dog evaluated by a professional behaviorist and complete any required obedience training.

Other provisions contained in this draft: microchipping the dog, obtaining liability insurance or a surety bond worth at least $100,000, and it prohibits transferring ownership of the dog without disclosing that it's classified as dangerous.

Proposed remedies for failing to comply with these rules for dangerous