WATERLOO --- The City Council's ordinance committee is expected to consider a new proposal to protect the public from "potentially dangerous" dogs.
The committee, which includes all of the council members, will meet before Monday's regular meeting to discuss a proposed ordinance defining what makes a dog potentially dangerous and requiring owners of such animals to pay higher animal registration fees and carry liability insurance.
A previous draft ordinance based on certain breeds --- pit bull terriers, Rottweilers, wolf hybrids, chows, Doberman pinschers and others --- was scrapped in favor of language based on an individual dog's behavior or negligence of its owner.
Under the proposed ordinance, a dog is "potentially dangerous" if it causes injury to a person or domestic animal or is found running at large if its owner has been cited by Black Hawk Animal Control three or more times within a 12-month period.
The ordinance excludes dogs used by law enforcement or incidents where the injured person was trespassing; where the victim was committing or attempting to commit a crime on the dog owner's property; where the victim was abusing, torturing or assaulting the animal without justification; or when a domestic animal that was at large entered the area where the dog was confined.
If a dog is deemed dangerous under the proposed ordinance, its owner would have to register it with the city, pay a $50 registration fee, provide proof of at least $300,000 in liability insurance to cover injuries caused by the dog and be affixed with a permanent registration number. The ordinance would also make it easier to declare a potentially dangerous dog as dangerous if it commits future offenses.
The ordinance committee meeting is open to the public, but public comments are generally not accepted during the meeting. The ordinance would eventually need to be addressed during a full council meeting before adoption.
Breeds Affected: Pit Bull, Rottweiler, Wolf hybrids, Chow-Chows, Doberman Pinschers and a weird "others" (huh?)
Timothy J. Hurley
715 Mulberry Street
Waterloo, Iowa 50703
Office: (319) 291-4301
Fax: (319) 291-4286
For more information, see:
City of Waterloo Mayor's Office
City Council Members:
Reggie Schmitt, 1515 Audubon Drive, Waterloo, IA 50701
Carolyn Cole, 836 Lynkaylee Drive, Waterloo, IA 50701
Harold Getty, 1555 Woodmayr Drive, Waterloo, IA 50703
Quentin M. Hart, 715 Mulberry Street, Waterloo, IA 50703
Ron Welper, 1120 West 8th Street, Waterloo, IA 50702
Bob Greenwood, 3553 Muirfield Drive, Waterloo, IA 50701
Office: 319-234-1589, Home: 319-236-3585, FAX: 319-234-5627
Steven J. Schmitt, 715 Mulberry Street, Waterloo, IA 50703
Work: 319-232-3701, Ext. 201
WATERLOO --- Blame the owner. Blame the dog. But don't blame the breed.
That's the message Waterloo City Council members heard Tuesday as they began tinkering with the "dangerous dog" ordinance following several well publicized dog-on-dog attacks in recent months.
City Attorney Jim Walsh had drafted a proposed ordinance outlining a list of potentially dangerous dog breeds --- pit bull terriers, Rottweilers, wolf hybrids, chows, Doberman pinschers and others --- which would have to be registered as such to stay in the city limits. Owners would need to detail their ability to confine their pets and prove they had insurance to cover damage or injury the dogs may cause.
"There's not a real good consensus on what breeds of dog are the most dangerous," he said. "The registration route is difficult. The banning route is also difficult."
Meanwhile, officials with the Cedar Bend Humane Society, which operates animal control services for the city under contract, suggested a third route.
"Instead of determining it on breed, maybe we should base it on what the dog does," said Kristy Gardner, co-director of the agency. "One of the things we deal with over and over and over again is the responsibility of the owner."
Gardner and the other co-director, Karla Beckman, suggested requiring a dog that bites --- or perhaps is found running at large more than once --- be required to register with the city as a potentially dangerous dog, triggering the additional steps for the owners.
Gardner said the animal control operation currently lacked the work force and training required to license every dog of a suspect breed; and she said identifying mixed breeds would be onerous. She noted that Labrador retrievers accounted for the most dog bites in the city last year, largely because they are so common and not necessarily because they were dangerous.
Council members urged Humane Society officials to put suggestions in writing to be discussed at a future meeting.
A related measure designed to tighten up the ordinance related to dogs deemed dangerous based on a verified attack received a warmer reception.
"The existing ordinance we found to be rather cumbersome from recent experience," said Walsh, referring to a federal lawsuit filed by Russ Folkers based on language in the existing ordinance.
The proposed ordinance would not allow the owner of a dog to keep the animal during the appeal process for a dangerous dog citation, and the owner would be required to post a bond to cover the boarding costs for the animal pending that appeal. Owners choosing to remove a dangerous dog from the city --- rather than destroying it --- would need to post a plan of where it would be taken; dogs returning to the city would be destroyed immediately without appeal.
Mayor Tim Hurley supported those changes.
"We've got to clamp down and get tougher, and this is a good start," he said.
Council members set no timeline for when future discussions about the ordinance would take place.