Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2003

Vicious animal ordinance under review by city

July 31, 2003

The Basehor City Council wants an ordinance governing vicious dogs with some teeth to it. Whether outlawing vicious dogs is a bigger bite than the City Council wants to take is another matter.

During its meeting Monday, July 28, City Council members reviewed an amendment to the city's vicious dog ordinance, placing more stringent requirements for owners. No action was taken during the meeting; the City Council decided it best to discuss the issue further during a work session.

City attorney John Thompson prepared an amendment to the vicious dog ordinance, which, if approved, would prohibit the ownership of certain breeds -- pit bulls, Rottweilers and wolf hybrids included -- as well as mandate vicious dog owners to carry loftier insurance policies.

The amendment would grandfather in residents owning those dog breeds before the new ordinance's approval, Thompson said.

A vicious dog is defined as "any dog which by virtue of its breeding, training, characterstics, behavior or other factors the owner or custodian knows or has reason to know has a propensity, tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked," according to the amendment.

Pursuing the amendment comes as result of an incident in June 2002, in which two stray dogs, a pit bull and Rottweiller, attacked and killed a miniature show horse valued at $4,500 on Parallel Road in Basehor.

The dogs, owned by a nearby resident, attacked the horse, which stood 27 inches tall and weighed approximately 200 pounds, in a barn inflicting numerous bites to the body, neck and throat.

Thompson said the amended ordinance closely resembles ordinances enacted in other Kansas cities.

"Many cities have taken this approach," he said. "There seems to be a movement of banning these dogs altogether."

Whether the prohibition against the animals is legal, however, is unknown. The ordinances have not been challenged in the legal system, Thompson said.

"There's no case law that says you can't and there's none that says you can," Thompson said.

Don "Slim" Wilson, Basehor animal control officer, said he found a loose pit bull last week with no tags. The animal was not vicious, and the issue of vicious dogs running loose in Basehor is not a worrisome one at this point.

"There's not a whole lot of problems," he said.

For some City Council members, outlawing ownership of certain dogs seems to be lending too much bark to an issue without a lot of bite.

"We need to know (which dogs) like to bite people," Basehor mayor Joseph Scherer said, "so we can keep our tabs on them.

"But eliminating them? I'm against that," he added, citing that not all animals dogs deemed vicious hurt people.

But in an equally compelling argument, City Council member Bill Hooker said it only takes one incident for an animal to hurt someone.

"They all say (the dog) has been a perfect little pet until that incident," Hooker said.

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