Verona City Council approves dangerous dog ordinance

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Council says community will be safer with new rules

City leaders in Verona have taken steps to protect citizens from vicious dogs by passing an ordinance that gives law enforcement and animal control officers some teeth when dealing with animal attacks.

Under the new ordinance approved Monday, any dog, which unprovoked, that has caused severe or fatal injury to a person may be classified as dangerous. Also, any dog “with a known propensity, tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked, may be deemed dangerous.

This is the second time the council has considered a dangerous dog ordinance. A similar ordinance was voted down in August 2020.

Councilwoman Denise White said Monday that she could support the new rules because it is not breed specific, targeting one kind of dog, such as a pit bull.

“Any dog can be a dangerous dog,” she said.

Council member Susanne Angel was concerned that dogs could be unnecessarily labeled dangerous if it reacts to people abusing or tormenting it. For example, she said her neighbors harass her dog, and said she fears that her dog could be held responsible if it was to defend itself.

White said that would be a case where the dog was provoked.

Mayor Joseph Heck added that, under the ordinance, she would have the opportunity to testify before the city to explain the situation and justify the dog’s behavior.

As it is written, the ordinance allows any law enforcement officer, the mayor or an animal control officer to investigate any incident in which a dog may be considered dangerous.

If a dog is accused of being dangerous, the animal control officer will provide the owner with instructions on filing a hearing and possible appeal on the animal’s behalf and once the dog is released to the owner, he or she will be required to provide a written request for the appeal to a municipal judge.

From there, the municipal judge will determine if the dog is dangerous or not based on evidence and testimony presented at the hearing.

If the severity of the attack warrants it, the ordinance says the judge could order the animal to be “humanely destroyed.”

However, the judge could rule that the dog be declared dangerous and returned to the owner.

If that is the case, the dog will be required to wear a bright orange collar at all times, and a brightly colored metal tag that clearly identifies the dog as dangerous.

The owner will be required to notify police or the animal control officer if the dog gets loose or is missing, or if it has attacked another animal or persons.

Dangerous dogs will be required to be securely confined indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked pen. The ordinance requires the pen to be at least ten feet by ten feet, with secured sides and a top.

The owner of dangerous dogs will also be required to display a sign that indicates a dangerous dog is on the property. And if the dog is taken off the property for any reason, it will be required to be muzzled and restrained by “a substantial chain or leash” that does not exceed six feet in length.

The city is also requiring the owners of dogs that are deemed dangerous to acquire at least $100,000 in liability insurance while the dog is licensed in the city of Verona.

The ordinance also requires dangerous dog owners to provide three color photographs of the dog, showing a left profile, a right profile and a front view of the animal.

Ten days after a dog is declared dangerous, the Verona Animal Control Officer will follow up with a compliance inspection to ensure all measures laid out in the ordinance are being met. Follow-up inspections will be conducted annually, or in the event of a complaint of non-compliance.

If the owner is unwilling or unable to comply with the requirements the city has approved, the city could seize, impound and/or humanely euthanize the dog at the owner’s expense.

In addition, anyone found to be violating any of the provisions in the dangerous dog ordinance could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and, if convicted, be fined $500 or be incarcerated for up to 90 days.

White made a motion that was seconded by Councilman Rodney Bogart to approve the ordinance. The ordinance was approved three-zero, with Councilman Mike Haynes absent.

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