Monday, August 1, 2011

Pitbull attacks prompt township to consider drafting ordinance

By Aaron Mueller, The Niles Daily Star

The Niles Township Board is considering drafting its own animal control ordinance after a dog killed a cat and injured another dog in a township neighborhood recently.
Township Supervisor Jim Kidwell brought up the issue at Monday’s board meeting, explaining that it had been reported that two pitbulls had gotten loose in a neighborhood in the township and killed a neighbor’s cat and mangled a dog.
“I think it’s time to revisit this,” Kidwell said, “to protect the citizens of the township a little better.”
Currently the township relies on Berrien County Animal Control to handle complaints of dangerous animals. The county has quarantined the pitbull that is suspected to have attacked the animals.
Clerk Marge Durm-Hiatt said the board could have a first reading of a draft of an animal ordinance as early as the next board meeting. The board members still have to discuss some provisions of the ordinance, like how many animals a household can own.
Niles City Councilperson Bill Weimer, who was in attendance, said the city’s animal ordinance allows for a total of five pets per household.

Update August 15, 2011 - The following article is by Aaron Mueller, The Niles Star:

Niles Twp. animal ordinance debate continues

Niles Township board members and area residents debated for about an hour Monday night about a proposed dangerous animal ordinance, before the board agreed to table the issue.
The issue came up at the last board meeting after a township resident’s cat was killed and dog was maimed by another pet, reportedly a pitbull in the neighborhood.
The proposed ordinance would allow for dangerous animals — or those that “attack or bite any person or animal without provocation” — to be removed from the township.
Township Supervisor Jim Kidwell strongly encouraged the board to pass the measure Monday.
“The county ordinance is very good. The only thing it doesn’t do is allow us do is remove a dangerous animal from the township,” Kidwell said. “And we have a duty to protect the citizens of the township.”
The animal would have to be deemed dangerous after a police department investigation, according to the ordinance. The current Berrien County ordinance requires a hearing before a judge to determine if an animal is dangerous. And if it is labeled dangerous, the animal must be put down.
The proposed ordinance was drafted by former township attorney Chris Lynch several months ago. But Berrien County Animal Control Director Val Grimes said based on her conversations with current township attorney Mary Spiegel, there are a number of concerns with the ordinance.
Grimes said the ordinance doesn’t clearly provide a definition for the word “bite,” which would make it difficult to determine which animals are considered a threat. She also argued that the proposed ordinance could result in the removal of innocent animals.
“This would cause a whole lot of grief to a whole lot of people who don’t deserve it,” Grimes said.
The argument got heated when township Treasurer Jim Ringler called out Kidwell for not consulting with Spiegel before bringing the ordinance before the board.
“You’re willing to just bypass legal counsel? Unbelievable,” Ringler said.
Kidwell argued that the City of Niles has a similar ordinance in place that is working well.
“If it was one of my animals destroyed, I wouldn’t want it living next door to me again,” Kidwell said.
Township board member Dick Cooper also expressed concern with the ordinance.
“If we (remove) a dangerous animal, where would it go? It could affect somebody else in another area. That bothers me,” he said.
Several residents in attendance weighed in on the issue, with an equal number for and against the ordinance.
Kidwell said he will consult with Spiegel, make some adjustments to the ordinance and bring it before the board at a future meeting. Copies of the ordinance draft are available at township hall.

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