Archive for Monday, January 29, 2001

Owners feel teeth of dog law

Supporters say dangerous canine rules create awareness

January 29, 2001


Lawrence's dangerous dog law, tested earlier this month in Municipal Court for the first time, gets a passing grade from a municipal prosecutor and the Lawrence Humane Society.

But owners of dogs that have been declared dangerous are ignoring the registration requirement so far. That could get them six months in the county jail and up to $1,000 in fines, if enforcers use the full teeth of the law against them.

None of the five owners had registered their pets as of Friday, said Lawrence City Clerk Ray Hummert. Registration is required within 15 days of a judge's ruling. The first hearings were conducted Jan. 16, making Jan. 31 the deadline for the first batch of dogs to be registered.

Marcus Owen, owner of a pit bull declared dangerous by Municipal Court Judge Randy McGrath, said last week he intended to comply with the law and register his pet. Nevertheless, he was less than happy about the outcome of his court appearance.

"They're all handled the same," Owen said of the law. "There's no individuality about it."

Owen was ordered to appear in court after his dog was reported Sept. 29 to be running loose and acting aggressively in the 900 block of East 13th St., according to an Animal Control report.

Owen is concerned about the cost of building a 6-foot high enclosure for his dog. He also wondered about the cost of having a microchip implanted in his dog, as required by owners of dogs declared dangerous.

The microchip implantation costs $20 and is handled at the Humane Society. The microchip contains registration information and other information deemed appropriate, according to the ordinance. The owner also must pay a $50 registration fee annually.

Midge Grinstead, director of the Humane Society, is one who is pleased with the law.

"I like this law better than what we had," Grinstead added. "I think it causes people to pay attention."

But it's not perfect, she said.

"I thought that when we had an extremely vicious dog it wouldn't be returned to the owner," she said, noting that on a first offense the dog is returned to the owner, no matter what the circumstances were.

Grinstead also agreed that in some cases it may be "a little harsh."

Meredith Sheahon agreed. Her dog, a husky-Labrador retriever mix, was declared dangerous because of an incident March 26 in the 600 block of Massachusetts Street.

According to the Animal Control report, Sheahon's dog bit another dog and then bit the other dog's owner on the forearm. Sheahon doesn't think it was her dog that bit the owner and plans to appeal McGrath's ruling.

Sheahon said she quarantined her dog and did everything she thinks she should have. Months later she got a notice to appear in court. She doesn't think her dog has shown a propensity for violence.

McGrath was reluctant to comment on the law.

"I expressed some sympathy to a couple of people who came before me," he said, confirming that Sheahon was one of them.

City Prosecutor Tom Porter said he had no problems with the law after its first test in court.

"I think it's working out all right," he said. "I don't know if we'll see any problems as we go on. I think people are exercising more control over their animals than they have before."

Other owners of dogs declared dangerous:

l Tina Gengler, owner of a basset hound that bit someone in the 800 block of West Sixth Street.

l Shaun McKenzie, owner of a lab mix that attacked a dog being walked by a 4-year-old girl in the 1900 block of East 19th Street. The girl was knocked down in the process.

l Mark Henderson, owner of a lab-chow mix that attacked and injured another dog in the area of 22nd and Louisiana streets.

Two other dog owners were ordered to appear in court earlier this month. One already had euthanized his dog. The other case has been continued.

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