To: City Manager Mike Wildgen
From: David Corliss, Director of Legal Services
Date: May 27, 1999
Re: DRAFT Dangerous Dog Ordinance
The past two days I have been preparing a draft ordinance responding to the Commission's direction on the issue of dangerous dogs. Attached is a preliminary draft ordinance, it is likely to be amended prior to the Tuesday meeting. I also anticipate Commission amendments to reflect a number of policy choices which must be assumed in drafting this ordinance.
Generally, the draft ordinance provides:
- Existing pit bull dogs would be allowed to remain within the city, provided that the dogs are registered and the dogs are kept as required by the ordinance.
- Any dog could be labeled a dangerous dog if the dog has propensity to attack humans or other animals. Such dangerous dogs would be allowed to be maintained within the city provided that the dogs are registered and the dogs are kept as required by the ordinance.
- Keeping either a pre-existing pit bull dog or a dangerous dog requires that the owner:
- Keep the dog on a leash at all times it is not in a structure or secured cage.
- Keep the dog in a secured cage if the dog is not on a leash and is outside.
- Register the dog with the City and have the Humane Society place an imbedded microchip in the dog. This assists in determining ownership of the dog.
- Register the dog with the City.
- Maintain liability insurance.
The draft ordinance needs further refinement, particularly to ensure appropriate administrative procedures and enforcement efforts can be achieved.
The City has considerable authority to regulate animals for the protection of public health and safety. I can prepare a legal brief on this authority if requested. As has been discussed, the Kansas Supreme Court has upheld Overland Park's ordinance regulating (but not banning) pit bull dogs and dangerous dogs. (Hearn v. City of Overland Park, 244 Kan. 638 (1989)). Courts in other jurisdictions have tended to uphold bans on specific breeds. A key legal requirement is that supportive evidence exists that the specific breed represents a more prominent safety hazard than other breeds. This prompts an ample discussion on the nature and nurture aspects of specific dogs and the care provided by dog owners. Other legal requirements are addressed in the ordinance and will be further refined with additional drafts.
Staff has received several inquiries concerning the proposed ordinance. The Lawrence Humane Society has indicated that they do not support a breed specific ban, while supporting strengthening the existing ordinance. See attached letter. A representative of the Lawrence Veterinarians Association has provided a similar statement to staff. Other input has included discussions regarding the "dog at large" provisions of the City Code.
One important item to consider is what other communities have adopted. Most of the larger jurisdictions near Lawrence (Topeka, Olathe, Lenexa, Shawnee, Overland Park) have more stringent requirements on dangerous dogs and pit bull dogs. An important policy consideration is that Lawrence not be viewed as a "safe harbor" for dangerous dogs and their owners. Police and Humane Society representatives indicate that some of our problem dog owners may have this view of Lawrence, particularly for the breeding/training of vicious dogs for illegal dog fighting uses.
Another important consideration for the City Commission is the appropriate staffing and equipment resources necessary for the administration (City Clerk) enforcement (Police Department Animal Control Officers) and adjudication (court staff) which would provide the level of service desired by the Commission. The ordinance will require inspections and an increased level of monitoring to attempt to ensure Code compliance.