Saturday, July 17, 2010

DOWNRIVER: Cities update vicious dog ordinances to curb attacks

By Rene Cizio, The News Herald

In an attempt to curb dog attacks, several Downriver cities recently updated their ordinances covering vicious animals.

Some cities have considered and others have approved legislation regarding breeds they believe to have a greater potential for injuring another animal or a person.

Last year, the Allen Park City Council adopted an updated dog ordinance and has since forced dozens of pit bulls out of the city. Those meeting certain requirements are allowed. The ordinance also pertains to any dog deemed to be vicious.

The ordinance details lengthy steps to be taken when any breed of dangerous dog is identified.

The city of Ecorse also bans pit bulls and has steep restrictions for vicious dogs.

The Allen Park ordinance was modeled, in part, on Melvindale’s ordinance, which bans pit bull breeds in the city.

The Melvindale ordinance, like many of the others, also says that any dog at any time will be declared vicious if it has destroyed property or habitually trespasses in a damaging way on property of people other than the owner, has attacked or bitten a person, shows vicious habits and molests passers-by, or is running at large. Violating the ordinance could be grounds for having an animal euthanized.

The Southgate City Council recently adopted an updated vicious dog ordinance similar to Allen Park’s, but it does not single out a breed.

In several cities, according to the ordinances, a vicious, or dangerous, dog is one that has bitten before, causing injury or death to a person or animal.

Potentially dangerous dogs are defined as causing injuries that are not serious, but do so without provocation, such as chasing the victim and being loose from the owner.

The ordinances require that owners of potentially dangerous dogs adhere to strict rules, including inescapable cages, special signs, identifying markers, sterilization and insurance, among others.

When the dog is not in an enclosed structure, it must be under the control of a person over age 18. It must be leashed and muzzled when outdoors.

All properties where the dog is kept must have public liability insurance, in some cases up to $100,000.

Two years ago, the city of Trenton banned dangerous and exotic animals.

In that city, there is a list of dangerous or exotic animals that people can no longer keep.

It says a dangerous or exotic animal is any mammal, reptile or fowl that is not naturally tame or gentle, but is of a wild nature or disposition, and which, because of its size, has a vicious nature or other characteristics that would constitute a danger to human life or property.

Under the new ordinance, police can confiscate and euthanize the animal.

In Wyandotte, an updated vicious animal ordinance deals with two classifications of dogs: dangerous and potentially dangerous.

Like other cities, if the animal control officer receives a complaint concerning a dangerous dog and determines the dog to be dangerous, the animal must be surrendered to a dog-control authority at the owner’s expense until a court determination is made.

If the animal control officer deems the animal to be potentially dangerous, the previously mentioned steps must be adhered to.

The state of Michigan also has laws, which supersede local ordinances.

State law also provides for the destruction of an animal if a court finds that it caused serious injury or death to a person.

To the state, a dangerous animal means a dog or other animal that bites or attacks a person, or a dog that bites or attacks and causes serious injury or death to another dog while the other dog is on the property or under the control of its owner.

Under the law, the animal, after due process as in local communities, can be euthanized.

Under state law, animals deemed to be potentially dangerous also will have to follow the previously mentioned steps for public safety.

Michigan also has the “wolf-dog cross act,” which bans acquisition and possession of wolf-dog hybrids.

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