By PETER HUSSMANN
The Newton City Council on Monday will look to strengthen its current vicious dog ordinance by eliminating the "one-free-pass" provision, adding insurance requirements for owners of dogs deemed vicious and requiring that vicious dogs found violating city codes be euthanized.
Recent incidents where pit bulls attacked and killed a smaller dog and cat, as well as an incident involving the police shooting of an animal and a dog attack that seriously injured a local woman, led the council to review its current ordinance, specifically the "one-free-pass" provision pertaining to dog attacks on other pets.
Under the current rules, a dog may be deemed vicious through a single incident that causes injury to a person. However, it takes two known incidents of a dog causing injury or death to an another animal before it can be deemed vicious under current city codes, effectively giving a dog one free pass before any action can be taken.
While the recent incidents that sparked council action involved pit bulls, the proposed ordinance changes do not single out the breed.
Under the changes, a dog that kills another domestic animal or pet may be deemed vicious by order of the city administrator or his designee. That order, however, can be appealed to the Newton City Council whose members will timely hear the matter and render a ruling.
"If the council affirms the action of the city administrator, the council shall also order in its written decisiion that the individual or entity owning, sheltering, harboring or keeping such vicious dog to take actions allowed within this ordinance, including proper confinement, muzzling or, up to and including having the vicious dog humanely put down (euthanized)," new language in the proposed ordinance states.
Should the dog owner not comply with the order within seven days, the city is authorized to seize and impound the animal for up to a week. If by the end of the impoundment period the owner has not petitioned the District Court for a review of the order, the animal will be destroyed.
Under the current code, vicious dogs are required to be confined within a house or be completely enclosed in a locked enclosed fence or pen at least six feet high with secure sides embedded in the gound. If the structure is less than six feet high, it must have a secure top.
When a vicious dog is outside its confinement, it must be on a leash less then six feet and be muzzled.
The ordinance changes to be considered Monday add a number of new provisions.
First, the proposal calls for the owner of a vicious dog to have at least $50,000 of insurance "naming the vicious dog as covered."
However, in an addendum to the ordinance report, Newton City Administrator Bob Knabel noted that Newton Mayor Mike Hansen has found that if the dog is "named" for insurance purposes, companies will likely cancel or not provide the coverage. A possible change to be considered is deleting the reference to naming the dog and requiring that homeowners or rental insurance be shown.
The new ordinance also would require that owners of a vicious dog have the animal microchipped with a device that will identify the dog and include the letters "DVA," declared vicious animal.
In licensing a vicious dog, the owner must provide proof of the microchipping, proof of the insurance coverage and pay a vicious dog surcharge of $50 on top of the regular license fee.
Any dogs found in violation of the ordinance's requirements, upon order of the city administrator and "utilizing the order process set forth, shall, after the elapse of the hearing processes, be humanely put down (euthanized)," the ordinance proposal states.
Failure to comply with an order deeming the dog vicious, or other sections of the ordinance, constitutes a simple misdemeanor punishable by a mandatory minimum fine of at least $200 but not more than $625 or 30 days jail. The ordinance also grants the court the authority to order that the ordinance be effectuated, including that the animal be destroyed or that a person may not own or reside where animals are kept.