Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sioux City May Lift Pit Bull Ban & Designate Them "High Risk"


On Monday, Sioux City council members will consider making revisions to the pit bull ban.
After review, city staff member are advising the city leaders to make place pit bulls in a high risk category and remove the pit bull ban.  Their suggestions also would increase the regulations related to keeping high risk animals. For instance, the owner of a high risk animal would be required to post warning signs on their property as well as have the animal microchipped.
In addition, they are recommending a three step process for animals seized for being "high risk". If an animal is seized a second time it must be removed from the city and an animal seized for a third time must be mechanized.
Another agenda item slated for Monday's meeting would also remove the city from the hearing process for viscous animals. Basically, a person would be cited for violating the high risk animal code and if that person did not feel their animal was viscous he would appeal the citation in court. They say this will free up police staff time and make the decision maker a Judge who is more adept at handling what is in essence a judicial process.

Update June 24, 2010 8:59pm - The following article is by Lynn Zerschling, Sioux City Journal:

Council to consider lifting pit-bull ban

City Attorney Andrew Mai will present sweeping changes to the city's vicious animal laws that call for lifting the pit bull ban and taking the police department and city out of the appeal process.
Under revisions to go before the City Council on Monday, pit bulls would automatically be designated high risk, and pet owners would appeal a vicious-animal designation directly to Woodbury County District Court.
Amending the ordinances has been a topic of debate and testimony from pet owners for months. Some procedures changed after District Court Judge John D. Ackerman ruled in January that the city had violated the due-process rights of six dog owners and the dogs were released from the Sioux City Animal Control shelter.
The council had toughened the vicious animal laws in 2008 so that animals deemed vicious had to be euthanized and no longer could be placed in homes outside the city.
That same year, the council unanimously enacted a ban on ownership of pit bulls and pit-bull mixes, sponsored by Councilman Aaron Rochester. Dogs already in the city were grandfathered in, but their owners had to comply with registration and licensing regulations or see their dogs seized. Rules about fencing, leashing, muzzling and microchipping followed.
By this year's April deadline, 529 pit bulls and mixes had been registered with the city, 30 fewer than the year before.
After three new councilmen took office Jan. 2, they said they wanted to review some of the animal laws. Mayor Mike Hobart also said he wanted to repeal the pit bull ban he initially favored.
Mai said a proposed change "provides that vicious animals are illegal and requires the owner to either relocate the animal outside the city or authorize euthanasia. Also, it gives the court discretion to lower the charge from vicious to high risk."
Amanda Gardner, founder of Justice for Pit Bulls, applauded the changes Thursday, saying, "I am particularly happy about lifting the pit bull ban. That means we can replace our dogs who die."
And she said believes pit bull owners would not mind following the regulations for high-risk animals since, they must comply with most of them already. "If they (council members) are willing to work with us, we (pit bull owners) should be willing to work with them."
In a report to the council that will accompany the proposed amendments, Mai wrote: "The ordinance also provides that owners of dogs may take back their dogs while awaiting an appeal as long as they comply with the protections required. Therefore if a dog is deemed high risk, the owner may take the dog if they comply with the fencing and microchipping requirements, etc. If the dog is deemed vicious, the owner may take the dog outside the city while the appeal is pending."
Both Hobart and Rochester said Thursday they favor that option.
Hobart had proposed placing pit bulls in the high risk category but added, "Again, the devil is in the details, and we learned that from the first time around with due-process issues."
Councilmen Keith Radig and Rochester oppose repealing the ban.
"I think the ban has been a strong success, and I think it would be wise to keep it in place," Radig said.
Rochester was adamant that the ban should remain, saying, "The statistics we have prove the ban works. There have been less bites. We've had a real issue of getting pit bulls registered. Not only do we have problems with a breed that bites more than other breeds but problems with owners who fail to register their pets."
A report provided to council members by the Siouxland District Health Department for all of Woodbury County shows 13 pit-bull bites between Oct 1, 2007, and April 27, 2008 -- an average of about 1.85 a month over the nearly seven-month period. Those 13 represent 32 percent of 41 dog bites for the period.
There were 39 pit-bull bites between April 28, 2008, and June 23 of this year -- an average of about 1.5 a month over nearly 26 months, representing 18 percent of 220 total bites.
The percentage of Labrador retriever and German shepherd bites increased by 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
Councilmen Tom Padgett and John Fitch said Thursday they had not had a chance to review the final proposals and would not comment until they had.
Karen Ludvigson, a member of the city’s Animal Control Advisory Committee, said she hopes the council will take time to consider the amendments "so it’s not expedited as it was previously. Hopefully, they can resolve any uncertainties that may have occurred in the past."
Here's a look at the some changes the council will be asked to review. As with all ordinances, any amendments would require three separate votes.
Pit-bull ban
Pit bulls would be classified as high-risk animals. Existing law requires high-risk animals be kept from running loose, have an outdoor pen and be neutered.
Proposed changes would require owners to post warning signs on all sides of the property and at least two feet from any entrance to the property saying "Dangerous Dog" or something similar. Animals would have to be microchipped and the information on the chip be kept current.
Appeal process
Currently, a pet owner appeals his case to a police officer. If the officer upholds Animal Control's vicious tag, the owner may appeal to a special master and from there, to district court.
Mai proposes all appeals go to court, taking the city out of the mix.
"This change will free up police staff time and make the decision-maker a judge who is more adept at handling what is, in essence, a judicial process," Mai said.
Irresponsible pet owner
The city attorney would toughen this definition after the pet owner received two violations, instead of the current three, for pleading guilty to or being convicted of:
-- Animal running at large, animal disturbing the peace, having an excessive number of animals; having unsanitary premises due to animals.
-- Two or more instances of animal neglect, unlicensed animal, vicious animals
-- Animal abuse or animal torture.
High-risk animal cases
A three-step process is proposed.
First offense: When Animal Control officers seize a high-risk animal, the pet may be reclaimed by the owner upon payment of impoundment and shelter costs. A pet not reclaimed within seven days may be euthanized, with the owner charged for that expense.
Second offense:The animal may be reclaimed by the owner upon payment of impoundment and boarding fees and proof that the pet will be removed from the city. A pet not reclaimed within seven days may be euthanized, with the opener charged for that expense.
Third offense: The animal would be euthanized at the owner's expense.
Disposition of vicious and high-risk animals
Under the recommended changes:
-- Any animal suspected of being vicious or high risk would be seized and impounded at the Animal Control shelter.
-- Owners could reclaim their pets upon payment of impoundment and boarding fees and presenting proof that requirements will be met.
-- Animal Control could obtain a search warrant to seize a suspected vicious or high-risk animal from private property if the owner refused entry. The pet owner would be charged with violating the ordinance. If found not guilty, his or her pet would be returned at no cost unless another violation took place.
-- If the case went to court and the owner did not reclaim the pet, the animal would be held for 15 days, then put up for adoption or euthanized.
-- Any owner found guilty or pleading guilty would have to pay boarding costs.
Pit-bull definition
Under the lengthy changes, one thing would remain the same -- the definition of a pit bull: American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, or any dog that has the appearance and characteristics of being predominately of those breeds, as set forth in the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club.

Update June 25, 2010 3:47pm - The following article is by Lynn Zerschling, Sioux City Journal:
Mayor: Registered pit bulls shouldn't be classified 'high-risk'

Mayor Mike Hobart said toiday he would like to grandfather in the city's registered pit bulls and exempt them from beng placed in the "high risk" category, as proposed as one of the many changes to the city's animal laws.
By not placing the 529 registered dogs in that high risk category, the mayor said those pet owners would not have to abide by additional regulations, such as posting "Dangerous Dog" signs at their homes. Those dog owner already have to comply with strict leashing, fencing, microchipping and other rules. They don't have to put up the warning signs, however.
"Maybe this won't fly," he said, adding he might not officially propose this change at Monday's council meeting when the ordinance changes will be presented.
Other major recommendations call for rescinding the ban on pit bulls/mixes enacted by the council in 2008; allowing owners to keep their pets who have been declared vicious or high risk pending appeals, and moving all appeals out of the Sioux City Police Department to Woodbury County District Court.
At Hobart's weekly news conference, City Attorney Andrew Mai outlined the changes after receiving input from the council members, city staff and residents.
If the council lifts the breed ban, Mai said, "Yes, there could be additional pit bulls brought into the city," which are not allowed now.
He said the changes were not prompted by the controversial Wiggles the shih tzu case, which resulted in an appeal to the police department. On June 17, the police hearing officer found that the Wiggles had bitten a child in his home in defense of his property and ordered him released from animal control.
"This wasn't based on any particular case," Mai emphasized.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome your comments and questions.
Be advised that comments are moderated. Not for views, but for content.
Profanity, personal attacks, and spam within comments will result in your comment being rejected.
I, personally, love Pit Bulls as well as all dogs and most animals.
If your comment differs from my feelings or opinions, I will post it anyway, providing it does not include any of the three exceptions listed above.
Same goes for comments that are in harmony with my opinions.
Thank you for participating.