To the editor:
During Tuesday's city commission meeting, the recent vicious dog attack was confronted. Comments by Mayor Hodges, city staff, and others, implied that the city's first response will be to expand Lawrence's "vicious dog ordinance," to reconsider the existing leash law, and possibly to add a new regulation. One new regulation being considered would require registration for certain breeds of dogs. These steps may help.
There's an obvious temptation to pass laws, and assume that legislating will resolve the problem now exemplified by the Illinois Street pit bulls. Passing laws will not help, if Lawrence continues to lack animal control officers to enforce the old or new ordinances. I've been speaking out about this problem for months. My wife and I use dog guides, and from time to time our dogs get challenged by loose dogs while they're doing their guide work. More often, we are confronted by loose dogs wandering into our yard.
In Lawrence, the animal control police officers are only routinely on duty during business hours, Monday through Saturday. Just last week, the LPD lieutenant responsible for animal control told me that now there would be some overtime authorized to extend some of their coverage.
Lawrence has exactly two animal control officers. Frequently, they both must work a single call. This means they have precious little time to patrol; most of their time is controlled by calls. If a dog problem occurs after 5 p.m. before 8 a.m., or on Sunday, chances are still very good that these officers are not on duty.
If no new laws were passed, and instead additional animal control officers were hired, enforcement of existing laws could become much more effective. City commissioners: please take a hard look at how to increase Lawrence's animal control coverage, before we have another vicious dog attack, which might be suffered by a person next time.