Archive for Thursday, August 31, 2006

County preparing vicious-dog regulations

August 31, 2006

Leavenworth County commissioners appear poised to begin regulating vicious dogs in the county's unincorporated areas.

At a public hearing last week, commissioners heard unanimous support from audience members for the need to put owners on notice that attacks by their dogs on people, livestock or other pets would not be tolerated in the county.

Commissioners took no action after the hearing, but noted their interest and said they would continue their deliberations of a vicious dog resolution.

"It is something I want to pursue and get in place," Commissioner Clyde Graeber said.

Commission chairman Dean Oroke said it had become evident that as more and more municipalities in the greater Kansas City area pass ordinances banning pit bulls and other breeds of vicious dogs, the need for action in the county was apparent.

"We know ... (vicious dogs) are moving westward into Leavenworth County," Oroke said.

Sheriff Dave Zoellner added, "Obviously we've been seeing a lot of calls about dogs running at large, vicious dogs. Then, with what we've seen in the media in the last month in the Kansas City metropolitan area, we don't want Leavenworth County to be turned into a dumping grounds for vicious dogs."

David Van Parys, county counselor, presented commissioners with a draft resolution to regulate and control vicious dogs. It did not single out any particular breed but did define a vicious dog and spelled out how the county might regulate such animals.

"The intention here is to cover situations where a dog has exhibited, in essence, aggressive behavior," Van Parys said. "This is not designed to cover a situation where a dog has attacked an unwanted intruder or where a dog is being used in law enforcement activities."

Van Parys, who said he put together the resolution with the help of the Humane Society, proposed giving a vicious dog and its owners "three strikes" before requiring the dog to be euthanized.

Any dog deemed to be vicious -- the determination would be made by an animal control officer within the sheriff's office -- would be required to be confined. At all other times, the dog would have to be on a strong leash and muzzled.

Owners of dogs deemed vicious would be required to register the dog annually with the sheriff's office, pay a $25 fee, provide proof of rabies vaccination, have a microchip with ownership information implanted in the dog by a veterinarian, and wear a securely fastened collar with a metal tag identifying the dog owner.

Van Parys also recommended the owner be required to obtain and maintain liability insurance covering injury or damage caused by the animal. The amount of insurance, he recommended, should begin at $100,000 for the first incident and increase with any subsequent incident.

Violators of the resolution would face a fine of up to $500 and a jail term up to 30 days for each violation.

The sheriff's office would enforce the resolution, and both Van Parys and Zoellner noted the need for a full-time animal control officer if the regulations are to have any teeth.

All five people who addressed commissioners spoke about the need to regulate vicious dogs.

Diana Bahr, who jogs and bikes in the Jarbalo area, said she thought the resolution was weak.

"I hate to think that a pit bull can run out on the road and bite me three times before anything is done," she said.

She urged commissioners to consider banning pit bull and Rottweiler breeds.

But Karen Sands, who works for the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City and lives near 169th Street and McIntyre Road, reminded commissioners that despite a pit bull ban since 1990, Wyandotte County continues to have problems with pit bulls. She advocated for nonbreed-specific regulations.

"If you make bans on dogs, they'll just go to a bigger, badder breed," she said. "But if you make a vicious dog ordinance or a vicious dog law, you give authority to actually enforce the law better."

Sheldon Parks, who lives on 142nd Street in the western part of the county, also asked commissioners to rethink allowing a dog "three strikes" before requiring the dog to be euthanized.

"I don't agree with three strikes and you're out," Parks said. "It should be two bites and you're out."

At the end of the 90-minute session, Commissioner Don Navinsky asked for a show of hands of those in attendance on two questions: How many people thought a three-strikes law was too lenient and how many thought the county should do nothing further about vicious dogs.

For the first question, all of the 20-some people in the audience raised their hands; no hands went up in the second poll.

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