Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vicious dog discussions continue

By Lindsay Hoeppner, West Liberty Index

Nineteen months after the West Liberty City Council reviewed a proposed model for a vicious dog ordinance, West Liberty resident Wilbur Wendt is bringing the matter to the forefront.

“We have an issue here, and I’d like to know what the resolution is,” Wendt said at the regularly scheduled West Liberty City Council meeting last Tuesday, Oct. 19. “There’s a dog down by A Street that I reported in August. It was reported again Saturday by my ex-wife. I know this individual has been cited three or four times, so explain to me, if you would — where does it become something that’s going to be done about the dog instead of citations?”

Mayor Chad Thomas agreed with Wendt, however, explained that there is not much more the city can do.

“The place we’re stuck at is within our ordinance as it exists, not as we’ve suggested it be changed,” he said. “We’ve cited the owner of that dog as much as we can.”

Thomas suggested that some of the animal control changes the Finance and Ordinance Committee originally had in mind before the council approved an ordinance amending the city code earlier this month would allow more flexibility in dealing with similar situations where a dog has not bit anyone, but is causing problems.

“I think coming down and voicing that to all of council and keeping that in the forefront is an important part,” he said. “It kind of reminds us to stay on getting that ordinance fully taken care of.”

Current city code defines a vicious animal as “any animal that bites or attacks human beings or in a vicious or terrorizing manner attacks, or approaches in apparent attitude of attack, a person upon the streets, sidewalks or any other public ground or place or any private property other than the premises of the owner, processor, or keeper of such animal, or a dog that runs after and bites or barks at horses, bicycles, or any vehicle being ridden or driven upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public ground or place within the city.”

According to Wendt, the dog of topic — a pit bull — charged at him and his children.

However, city code states that unless the dog seizes or bites one or more persons, only a citation can be issued.

“That’s part of the problem,” Thomas said. “There’s a destruction of animal, but it’s poorly written. It just says if an animal is ‘seizing or biting people or is vicious and has actually bitten one or more persons, the animal warden, or his or her designated representative may, if he finds such animal at large, kill the same without previous notice to the owner if the animal cannot be captured by any reasonable method,’ but it doesn’t say what to do if we capture it.”

While Thomas said he, city manager Chris Ward, police chief P.J. Brewer and the Finance and Ordinance committee, which council members Gerry Wickham and Tom Pace are a part of, had a lengthy list of items they wanted to change within the animal control ordinance to update it and make it more consistent, some of their suggestions did not make it into the final amendment.

“What we ended up getting back was quarantine stuff for dogs suspected of rabies and our licensing requirements,” Thomas said. “This stuff about vicious animals and destruction never made it in.”

“I know it’s politics, and you have to follow the right codes, but can’t we get something drafted to get it done, and then we can finalize other amendments to it just to et something like this taken care of?” Wendt said.

Thomas said he and Ward will talk to city attorney Bill Sueppel about the issue.

“At the very least, we’ll make sure we have something for the next council meeting,” he said.

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