The regulation of dangerous dogs has been a topic of discussion for city councils around the area and Sleepy Eye is no exception. After a recent attack on a local resident, Police Chief John Schueller and Assistant City Attorney Alissa Fischer said the current city ordinance should be revised.
According to Sleepy Eye Police Chief John Schueller, on Sept. 23 a pit bull broke free from its chain and rushed at a resident, biting him on a public sidewalk and causing severe injuries to his calf and hand when the animal refused to let go. According to Assistant City Attorney Alissa Fischer, the bite caused an injury so severe the victim missed several weeks of work.
Due to a pending investigation, no further details were released about the incident.
Fischer noted that the dog's owner was notified of the bite and has 14 days from the notification to register the dog as a dangerous animal with the City of Sleepy Eye at which time a micro-chip will be implanted for a fee and a $300,000 insurance policy is required for the owner to keep the dog.
"Chief Schueller determined the dog to be dangerous," Fisher explained. "Any dog or animal that causes unprovoked injury or damage to property can create a criminal case with a misdemeanor charge."
Because of the severity of the injuries, Schueller and Fischer agreed it was time to consider the language in the Sleepy Eye city ordinance.
The language of the current city ordinance, according to Fischer, states that a dangerous animal is one who causes damage to property or injury to a person, or which animal, by its actions, exhibits a propensity for causing imminent danger to persons.
What Schueller and Fischer propose is that the city adopts the state statute for dangerous animals. In the state statute, after an animal is determined dangerous, the owner would be required to pay hefty annual fees, have proper enclosures deemed strong enough to keep the animal away from the public, post warning signs and take out a $300,000 insurance policy that would cover any future bites.
"With the state statute, after 14 days of a notification, if the owner has not registered with the city, I could bring a misdemeanor violation against the owner which brings a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine," Fischer explained, adding that the adoption of the state statute would be regulated at the local government level.
Fischer explained that she is proposing to eliminate the current city definition of a dangerous animal for several reasons.
"First, a judge may not bring a misdemeanor charge under our current ordinance for dangerous animals because of its broad language," Fischer said. "There could be a constitutional challenge that the current ordinance is overly-broad. It's lighter than the state statute and that could potentially make it unenforceable in future cases."
Page 2 of 2 - Currently, no charges are pending of the current incident as long as the owner complies within the 14-day time limit. After 14 days if the dog owner has not complied with the requirements to keep a dangerous animal within city limits, charges can be filed, Fischer added.
Fischer plans to work on a new dangerous animal ordinance and bring it to the council in November.