Archive for Monday, November 7, 2005

Vicious dog ordinance keeping county busy

Frequent enforcement raises questions about criminal activity

November 7, 2005


A total of 23 dangerous and vicious dogs have been euthanized since the beginning of 2004 under a county ordinance designed to protect people and other animals from aggressive canines.

The numbers in the new Lawrence Humane Society report came as a surprise to county commissioners, but also were taken as a sign of the drug and gang activity in the community.

"I would say the majority, more than the majority of it, is related to that," County Commissioner Jere McElhaney said. "I would not be hesitant to attribute 80 to 85 percent of these cases as drug- or crime-related."

McElhaney said that's a good reason for the county to continue to keep the ordinance on the books and possibly add other provisions. He said if gang members and drug dealers learn that they can't easily keep their fighting dogs in Douglas County, they may go elsewhere.

"That's one of the big goals," McElhaney said.

Midge Grinstead, executive director of the humane society, said she agreed many of the animals picked up under the ordinance are bred for dog fights, which are popular in the gang culture.

A county ordinance has led to the euthanization of 23 dangerous and vicious dogs. The owner of the boxer shown above says his dog is protective, not vicious.

A county ordinance has led to the euthanization of 23 dangerous and vicious dogs. The owner of the boxer shown above says his dog is protective, not vicious.

Grinstead said the ordinance had been a big help getting dangerous dogs off the street. Prior to the ordinance's approval in late 2003, Grinstead and animal control officers had few ways to go onto a person's property and take a dog. Dogs generally could only be captured if they were found roaming the streets or were on someone else's property.

The new ordinances give animal control officers the ability to enter, with a law enforcement officer, and seize the dog if there have been complaints that the dog attacked a person or another pet - or if the dog attempted to make an attack.

"We rely on complaints from people," Grinstead said. "We rely on people saying, 'We're trying to have a picnic in our backyard and the dog next door is trying its best to come through the fence and eat us alive.' People have a right to not live in fear."

The county ordinances do not target specific dog breeds, but pit bulls have by far been the most common breed euthanized. According to Grinstead's figures, 17 of the 23 dogs have been pit bulls. McElhaney, though, said that is only because those dogs have been popular among dog fighters. Other breeds euthanized include shepherds, Akitas, Huskies, Catahoulas, Shar-Peis and Labs.

New ordinance sought

Grinstead said she was confident the ordinance was having a positive impact on public safety. She estimated the number of bite cases - which normally number about 50 per year countywide - have dropped by 10 percent to 15 percent.

"The only problem I can see is that people are hiding these dogs much better now," Grinstead said. "But even that is good for the community because it means they are in places where they'll be less likely to attack someone."

McElhaney said he wants county commissioners to consider an ordinance that would make it tougher to hide dogs. He's proposing the county create an ordinance that would make it illegal for dogs to be kept on property not occupied by the dogs' owners. The provision wouldn't prohibit commercial kennels that go through the proper zoning process.

How it works

The county has two separate dog ordinances. The dangerous dog ordinance is used to cite dog owners after an animal's first attempt to attack a person or pet. The offending dogs can be returned to their owners but must be kept in a 6-foot-high kennel or on a 4-foot leash. When not in a kennel, the dog must be muzzled. Owners can be fined up to $200 for a first offense.

The vicious dog ordinance is for dogs cited more than once or which have been cited for an attack and are found to have been raised as a fighting dog. Vicious dogs can be euthanized. Owners can be fined $500 or receive 90 days in jail for a first offense. Both types of cases are tried in either Lawrence Municipal Court or Douglas County District Court.

McElhaney said he had concerns some gangs may be renting vacant rural property to house and train dogs "out of the limelight of the city." He also said some rural property owners may be keeping hunting dogs or other dogs on vacant property.

McElhaney said the situation was not a good one because if the dogs begin to bark, there is no one there to control them. And if the animals become hurt or need medical attention, there is no one to attend them.

"I just think domestic animals should be in areas where their owners are," McElhaney said.

But county commissioners have been urged by the Douglas County Sheriff's Department to study the issue more before passing such a law. The Sheriff's Department has expressed concern that the ordinance could be difficult to enforce because there could be disputes about what constitutes vacant property and because some farmers use dogs to guard livestock located away from their homes.

McElhaney said he didn't want the issue to be dropped.

"I know it would be a new concept for law enforcement, but I think we should keep working on it," McElhaney said.


Adrienne Sanders 12 years, 5 months ago

The vicious dog ordinance makes sense, to me. However, the dangerous dog ordinance seems to leave a heck of a lot of leeway. What defines an "attempt" to attack? There are plenty of dogs who bark and act up and look intimidating if you walk by their yard, but who would genuinely never bite anyone.

cowboy 12 years, 5 months ago

Hey Smitty , you probably also know if your a farmer , that if a dog comes on your property in the country that a bullet will probably meet it pretty quickly ! City and country are different circumstances.

My_Voice 12 years, 5 months ago

As a Pit Bull owner I find it very discouraging as to what the city considers a "Vicious dog". Recently my Pit was picked up because he jumped the fence in my back yard. That was my fault because this is something he sometimes does when certain neighboring females are in heat. But when I received the ticket I was charged an extra fee because my dog growled at the animal control officer. Now I don't care if you own a Pit or a Pomeranian when you corner a dog and you have a large device that you are attempting to use to trap the dog, it is going to growl at you.... This is no reason to consider my pet as Vicious. I agree that there are some individuals in this town that mistreat their pets for the purpose of fighting, but if you are going to be an animal control officer grow some balls and do you job. (forgive the language) There is no reason to constantly harass citizens that own certain breeds, and yes harassment is the proper term... If you were to take 5 minutes and meet with my Pit you would find him to be the sweetest and most loyal animal. The next time I see a Chihuahua that takes a nip at me I am turning it in to animal control as a Vicious Dog, lets see how they handle that case. Thanks for letting my voice be heard.

FastEddie 12 years, 5 months ago

"Recently my Pit was picked up because he jumped the fence in my back yard. That was my fault because this is something he sometimes does when certain neighboring females are in heat."--MyVoice

Then fix the problem and you won't be fined anymore. The dog may be nice to you but they are frequently unfriendy to others. Many other people have thought the same thing about their dogs before they ripped into someone else's leg or pet.

Kodiac 12 years, 5 months ago

I don't understand how this law works. I have a dog that is very protective me and I want him to be. If he attacks an intruder that has come into my house, does that mean he is vicious?. If strangers approach my yard or come near my house and my dog barks and jumps on the fence that is defined as a vicious dog? My dog provides me security in my home and this law seems like it is way too vague.

chsn3boys 12 years, 5 months ago

I too am an owner of a Pit Bull. Although alot of people think that they are dangerous dogs thats only because some people are VERY stupid and miss use these dogs. My dog has been raised with 3 boys and has been around alot of other kids and animals. When he goes around other animals he doesn't growl or bark at them he wags his tail because he thinks he has someone to play with not because he wants to "tear them apart." I just recently had to give him to someone else because my neighbors were afraid of him (even though he hasn't done so much as bark at them) just because of the bad name that the breed of dog has. Any breed of dogs can be vicious or trained to be mean. These dogs just want to be loved and try to make there owners happy. Just like My_Voice if you give my dog 5 seconds you'd see that he wouldn't hear anyone or anything (unless of course you don't like being licked!)

mlemiller 12 years, 5 months ago

I also think it's interesting that they used a boxer for the illustration to this story. I guess they just needed a picture, even though they say in the caption that this is not a vicious dog. I have two boxers and they are the friendliest dogs around. I'm not mad or anything, just thought it was interesting that they would take an intimidating shot of the boxer to use with the story.

Dani Davey 12 years, 5 months ago

I find this article upsetting. I had a pit bull when I was very little and I now have two boxers. All were protective of me but I would certainly never call any of them vicious. I agree with MyVoice that of course a dog is going to growl or bark as someone it doesn't know, especially if that person is cornering it. I think this ordinance goes against the very reason many people get mid-sized dogs - for security.

jstevens1979 12 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, the boxer pic was a little over the top. I remember, about three years ago 20/20 or Nightline or some other stupid news show did a primetime story on viscous dogs and they did the same thing. Showed pictures of dogs that just look "scary". The very next day my neighbor called animal control, and came over to my house demanding I lock up my Boxer, because she saw the story on TV and just didn't feel safe anymore. And the dog never did any thing to anyone. There are alot of stupid people in this town!

My_Voice 12 years, 5 months ago

FastEddie -

I have tried a number of things to fix the problem. I spend a good chunk of change to raise the fence in my back yard to a height in which I didn't think he could jump over. If you think "fixing" him is going to make a difference you are sorely mistaken. Just because you remove the manhood doesn't mean he still won't have the urge. My neighbors kids play with him, my nephew has been around this dog since he was a baby, and trust me when I tell you that the only way he could hurt you is to lick you to death. The point I want to get across is, it is all about how you raise the dog. And again I don't care what type of dog you own, IT IS ALL ABOUT HOW YOU RAISE THE ANIMAL. I have friends with cats that are more vicious than my dog. I am starting to feel extremely uncomfortable with the way this town has evolved. When I moved to Lawrence it was because it was a nice understanding community where one persons voice could be heard and understood. Now it is a breading ground for the right winged community that Kansas is famous for. Well I for one will not give up without a fight. I plan to walk my pup up and down mass street every weekend to promote understanding for these animals. Someone needs to do something. This is just getting way to out of hand...!

Claire 12 years, 5 months ago

I AM a German Shepherd/Akita mix. Frequently, I bark, but don't bite (don't tell anyone). I think that it is GREAT to get rid of VICIOUS dogs, but leave us well-meaning pets alone! When the City passed the law about no dogs being tied up for over an hour, at the City Commission Meeting, it was said ONLY when neighbors complained, would people be ticketed and it was all because of Drug Dealers/dogs being trained in some North Lawrence neighborhood. Looks to me like the County already had/has laws on the books, so this limited hr to be tied up is UNECESSARY.

jstevens1979 12 years, 5 months ago

It would be great if LJW would take a picture of another boxer licking someones face, or being used as a police dog or rescue dog and plaster in the paper. I am going to have to deal with my neighbor all over again. But I guess they are doing their job as the media, keeping us scared and misinformed.

princess 12 years, 5 months ago

Tell it to Nicky. Oh wait, that's right can't. One of his families pits killed him this summer.

And wait happened to his mother? She is being charged with child endangerment.

Keep these dogs away from your children. Especially in close quarters.

jstevens1979 12 years, 5 months ago

Princess, keep what dogs away from children? I am from a small town in Iowa, and recently they had to put the Fire departments Dalmation to sleep because it freaked out and bit a little kid. So can you label certain breeds viscous? No you can't.

princess 12 years, 5 months ago

Pits aren't statistically more likely to attack, however their attacks are far more deadly. In this case, it is a breed specific issue. It is not always the case, but most responsible pit owners that I know will tell you the same thing. Outside of that, I am not saying that it is breed specific. And again, I am not saying that just because you have a pit, it will attack you. I am saying that if it does, your chances of survival are much smaller. If you are a small child, it is even worse.

It is too bad that the Dalmatian had to be put down. I wonder who was watching the children and the dog at the time of said freak out and biting?

jstevens1979 12 years, 5 months ago

Everyone was watching the dalmation and the children, It was a well known dog, somewhat old 5-7 years, it just flipped and started biting the kid in the head. And if this whole story revolves around pit-bulls and how they are more inclined to maul someone to death why is there a picture of a boxer in the paper?

jstevens1979 12 years, 5 months ago

I am willing to bet that 85% of this town and about 75% of the people in America dont even know what a pit-bull is or what it looks like. Maybe a story featuring a picture of an angry pit-bull, and maybe some info on what to do if approached buy a dog that appears to be viscous would do us all some good.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 12 years, 5 months ago

There is gonna be some s**t over this killing of dogs. Especially labs. Labs are the sweetest, gentlest dogs there are. We have a black lab we got from the Topeka shelter when she was 4. The only way she would hurt anyone, is if they were trying to hurt us. She is an excellent watchdog, and the sweetest, most lovable dog I have ever had. I cannot picture labs fighting for a bunch of criminals. Every person I have ever talked to that has a lab, as a family dog, or as a retriever while hunting has told me the same thing about them. I would have to see that to believe it. In addition, unless these dogs are beyond rehabilitation, I do not agree with killing them. I am a dog lover, always have been. There must be a better alternative. Thank you, Lynn

mermily 12 years, 5 months ago

my voice- by in large i agree with your sentiment. i'm an animal advocate and am frequently outraged when the sins of owners or the uneducated are visited upon the animals....i do want to address one area where we part ways though.

"If you think 'fixing"'him is going to make a difference you are sorely mistaken. Just because you remove the manhood doesn't mean he still won't have the urge."

your biology is off with reference to neutering your dog. certainly, if done late, neutering will not cure all behavioral patterns that have developed due to testosterone, but to assert that a dog has the same urges with or without the majority of the hormones driving those urges, is just wrong. i recommend you speak with a vet about this.

i feel it is socially irresponsible to have an un-neutered dog if you're aware it gets out. the possibly it will get another dog (whose owners are equally as irresponsible) pregnant is not acceptable. the sooner people get over this odd worship of the male dog's testicles (my dog's "manhood"), the sooner humane societies can reduce the amount of euthanasia they are forced to do. if you care about animals, this too is a problem.

in turn, thank you for listening to my take on the matter.

kris10p4 12 years, 5 months ago

melmiller: Wow! Your boxers are Scary! Check out how scary mine are!

petlover 12 years, 5 months ago

i recently had a dog taken from my home because she jumped the fence. i should have taken her out on a leash but i thought she would be ok considering i thought nobody was outside. she jumped the fence to play with the neighbors children and dog not knowing that the parents were out side as well. the father was a jerk about it and the mother was just evil. i repetedly apologized and they just kept on being a-holes. then they lied on the animal control report and in court. they said she tried to bite them, she did not. i was there the whole time and they assumed that since i am still considered a minor that i didnt see anything. they have a dog that has repatedly tried to bite me. i have done nothing about it because i think the dog will grow to like me. my dog is the same way. she is protecive and is treatred as an equal by my self and the rest of my family. she is a sweet dog, and only growls and strangers. about two months ago she would have bitten him in a second now all she does is growl with her tail bewtwwen her legs. they want to put her to sleep because she was curious. we have not been allowed to go see her and if they put her to sleep not only will we have to pay kennel fees but we have to pay for the euthinasia equiptment. that is not fair. my dog, luna, is a good dog and as for all of you wise asses that think it is all right to allow them to kill her, i hope you go to heel. if you could meet luna she would like you. she is only six months old for christ sakes.

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