City Commission discusses the possibility of a new dangerous animal ordinance
The possibility of a new dangerous animal ordinance in the city of El Dorado brought several citizens out to the City Commission meeting Monday evening.
The issue arose back in March when the city held a work session to hear from people wanting to change the current animal ordinance to allow pit bulls in town.
“There is no action being asked for,” said Herb Llewellyn, city manager, of the agenda item. “I would be surprised if you did it in two weeks.”
Public Works Director Brad Meyer reviewed the process they had been through up to this point, saying they requested information from other entities on their policies. He explained the current ban on pit bulls has been in effect since 1989 and it was the request of citizens to have pit bulls in the city limits which started the discussion.
The other thing they did was send out requests for comments to the local veterinarians, receiving feedback from one, who had some concerns on items in the draft.
“What you have in front of you is pieces from different communities,” Meyer said.
According to the president of the U.S. Humane Society who talked to them during their last work session on this, Lawrence and Bonner Springs had the best ordinances.
“That being said, we went back and took the pieces of each of those for you to look at tonight,” he said. “What you have in front of you tonight is not an ordinance. It’s pieces of that puzzle that need to be put together to formulate a good dangerous dog ordinance. There are things that will need tweaked and changed.”
He also mentioned Wichita’s pit bull ordinance, which requires the animal to be microchipped, sterilized and not be more than two in a home. There also is a $100 fee to register the dog.
He also said the list, which includes pit bull breeds, Chows, German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Doberman, does not mean that animal is dangerous.
Some of the possible ordinance regulations offered were to have a $50 annual fee, to have additional insurance for them and requirements when the dog is outside.
If they didn’t identify breeds, everyone would start out equal and they could be given one, two or more strikes.
“I also think when you look at the bites, you have to look at each one on its own,” Meyer said.
“The criteria, when we set an ordinance is we have to be reasonable. If the animal is in its own back yard and it kills a squirrel, it is not going to be considered a dangerous animal. If it gets out and kills the neighbor’s cat, it’s different.”
Meyer said one of the criteria in the ordinances they looked at said nothing would happen for five days, which gives officials a chance to finish the investigation into what occurred.
Commissioner David Chapin said his concerns were on trying to determine what breed a dog is and just because it looks like a German Shepherd, it may not be.
Meyer said they ask veterinarians to identify dogs when they get a license.
“This is not necessarily about the breed of dog, it is about the owner of the animal,” Meyer continued.
“This seems to affect everyone who owns a German Shepherd, not just the bad guy,” Chapin said. “That is what I am concerned with what I have read so far. I’m having trouble with the insurance, chipping, just because it’s this breed. I think we’re intruding into a lot of people’s lives about their pets where 99 percent of the time we don’t need to be.”
He said he hears more complaints about barking dogs.
“Protecting everybody by making everybody get papers for their dogs and passports, I don’t know if that is really going to be the answer to the problem for the one guy or two guys who have dogs that shouldn’t be in town,” Chapin said.
Commissioner Chase Locke also said he was not crazy about the list, but that staff had done what the commission had asked.
“We are looking at a lot of things,” he said. “Our goal was to find a way to eventually allow the pit bulls to be allowed. I think we’re still on that journey and will continue that. We’re considering a lot.”
Commissioner Bill Young added that there was no expectation for them to approve anything that night. He said this was the time to ask staff to look at things if they wanted them to and also have time to research it themselves.
“I think all of us up here have received a lot of emails and phone calls and communication about this ordinance,” he continued. “I have concerns with the list as well, but I think these are all things we can ask questions on and hear from the community.”
Chapin said they were working from the toughest regulations back to what they wanted to do.
There are already guidelines in the code on what happens if an animal bites another animal or a person. If there is a bite that is not series or fatal, it will be determined if the animal is dangerous. The next step is a four-sided pen that is at least 18 inches in the ground, then on a third incident, the animal has to be removed from the city limits.
Mayor Mike Fagg asked for numbers on bite reports.
Last year there were four bites, with two being pit bulls and two huskies. In 2012 there was a Rottweiler bite and three pit bull bites.
“It seems every year we have one or two pit bull bites even though we have a ban,” Meyer said.
The commission then opened the meeting up to comments from the public.
The first to speak was Kathy Daily, who works at the El Dorado Animal Clinic.
“My biggest issue is the breed list,” she said. “Working with the city concerning the pit bull law for all these years, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been drug out to see the same white boxer because people identify it as a pit bull. Breed identification is extremely difficult. Are we going to label every German Shepherd mix as dangerous? It’s just not fair to put a breed specific law in.”
She agreed there needed to be a good dangerous dog law.
“I really, truly think El Dorado ought to adopt Wichita’s pit bull ordinance,” she said. “Let’s not label our breeds; let’s label the dogs as they deserve it. Let’s not create something that is more difficult to enforce.”
Chapin asked if vets could tell which animals are on edge when they are brought in, but Daily said a dog may be on edge at the vet where they aren’t in a normal situation. She also didn’t think it wouldn’t be a fair burden to place on the vets.
Fagg also asked how they would decide what a dangerous dog was.
Daily said a dog running loose that bites someone would be dangerous, but they would have to look at it case by case.
Jamie Turner, who also works at the El Dorado Animal Clinic, also voiced her thoughts.
She read from the regulations that said a dog with a tendency to attack unprovoked is dangerous.
She shared the story of a greyhound that killed a cat running loose, from which it was deemed as dangerous. Then the neighbor’s rabbit got into the dog’s yard and it killed the rabbit. After that it had to be removed from its home.
“Every dog has the tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked,” Turner said. “Every dog has that possibility.”
She also had an issue with the breed list.
“We can determine that outlawing breeds encourages outlaws to own these breeds,” Turner said. “We are not going to cultivate responsible dog owners by listing specific breeds. Outlaws know how to hide.”
Her last issue was with attacks on other animals, saying they need some determination on what constitutes an attack on a domestic animal.
Resident Chris Barth also spoke.
She spoke as a responsible pet owner and dog advocate.
“I am not an expert on any breed,” Barth said. “I don’t own a pit bull but I can say I’ve spent 60 volunteer hours in a shelter caring for 400 pit bulls that were confiscated from a three-state fighting ring. These were some of the most amazing dogs that I have ever seen.”
Barth owns a doberman, which she has spent time with training.
“I think we need responsible pet owners,” she said. “I don’t believe in punishing the good citizens.”
She also questioned the research behind the information quoted from other Web sites.
She went on to talk about a study by the Center on Disease Control on dogs and bites.
Of the 113 breeds they looked at, the Scottish Terrier failed the test. In fact, the top stops were all terriers, with a Chihuahua at number five and a pit bull scoring 83 percent on the test.
“My point is, are the breed laws effective,” Barth said. “I ask you to please reconsider the breed specific ordinance.”
Tom Elliott also spoke.
He said he had a dog on the “baker’s dozen” list. He owns a German Shepherd.
He felt dealing with the bite after the dog got out was not curing the problem. He thought the number one problem was the lack of education. He said schools should teach the dos and don’ts on approaching dog. He also thought a family should be required to take an obedience class so they understand the dog and the dog will understand commands.
Davy Harkins, who owns the El Dorado Animal Clinic, also spoke.
He said he had pushed for a vicious dog ordinance back when they banned pit bulls.
“The other point, when it comes back to this breed specific,” he said, “one of the big problems is identifying whether that animal has some of that breed in it.”
He said he deals with identifying dogs at the Animal Shelter.
“I’ve killed a lot of good dogs because pit bulls are not allowed in El Dorado,” he said.
He said when they label breeds they also increase the liability awareness.
Harkins also said a dog’s purpose is to protect his property or his people. He said if a dog is on its own premises, it should be more lenient.
“There’s a few places this ordinance really needs tweaked,” he said.
Darrell Calkin also spoke.
He is a long-time dog owner and said there also were intelligent dogs and they hadn’t talked about that.
“I think this panel will make the right decision, but I do disagree with the list,” he said. “It should go case by case.”
Jonathan Zachery said he works in the service industry and often gets chased by dogs.
“Is my boxer going to be put on the dangerous animal list because it bit another dog?” he asked.
Young then thanked the responsible dog owners for coming out and talking about the issue.
“This is step one to hopefully a bunch of steps to get something in front of us,” he said.
Locke added he had received several e-mails saying they lacked common sense for even considering this. He said they would be trimming the recommendation down to what is fair.
Becki Terry also is an owner of one of the breeds of dogs on the list.
“He’s not a vicious dog at all,”she said.
Kara Knight said she has brought pit bulls into her home around her children and she would not have done this if one of the dogs was dangerous.
Merrill Hodgen said he loves big dogs and he thought the list was bogus.
“We just want to do the right thing,” Fagg said.
The commission will review the information and it will return at a future meeting.
Julie Clements can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.