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City to allow use of pet shock collars, sparking opposition among Mitchell resident, several council members

"I'm concerned my backyard will become a toilet," said Mitchell resident Bruce Trebil, who claimed allowing shock collars on dogs will lead them to roam onto his yard and leave droppings

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Gracie shows off her jumping ability at the west dock ramp at Lake Mitchell.
Mitchell Republic file photo
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MITCHELL — The Mitchell City Council gave residents the green light on Tuesday to use shock collars on their pets and domestic animals, despite pushback from several council members and a former dog owner.

Councilman Dan Allen rejected the idea that pets can be kept under control by their owners and handlers with a shock collar. Allen said the city’s previous ordinance that prohibited shock collars and required leashes instead should be left alone.

“I believe they all should be leashed. They are not in control with shock collars. They don’t work,” Allen said. “What we have now is working.”

Councilman Steve Rice supported allowing shock collars on pets in city limits, calling it another way for pet owners to control their animals.

“It’s already happening today. I live across the street from a park, and I see hundreds of dogs on leashes and not on leashes. All leashes don’t work,” Rice said, noting he’s witnessed pet owners lose control of their dogs and get knocked down while using retractable leashes. “To me, this is another control and update.”

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After the council went back and forth on whether to allow remote pet collars in city limits, the eight-person governing body voted in a 4-4 tie on the changes to the pet ordinance. Mayor Bob Everson had to break the council’s 4-4 tie to adopt the new pet ordinance.

Council members Susan Tjarks, Dan Sabers, John Doescher and Allen voted against changing the ordinance to allow remote collars. Kevin McCardle, Marty Barington, Jeff Smith and Rice were among the four council members who voted in favor of tweaking the ordinance to permit shock collars.

Tweaking the city’s pet ordinance to allow remote collars came at the request of Everson, who said the use of shock collars has been a gray area in the city’s ordinance. Everson previously detailed an incident in 2018 he had with a resident who criticized him for running his dog in Mitchell with the help of a shock collar.

Everson noted former Chief of Public Safety Lyndon Overweg informed him that shock collars worn around a pet’s neck was considered by public safety officials as a leash. Adding the use of remote collars into the ordinance was a move Everson said would bring more clarity to a gray area.

While the use of remote collars is permitted with the council’s approval to tweak the ordinance, they are prohibited if the animal is at a public gathering with 10 or more people.

The changes to the city’s pet ordinance also deem any pets with shock collars straying beyond 50 feet from its owner or handler as not being under complete control. In addition, any animal or pet causing non-consensual contact with another person would be considered an undesired action, according to the modified ordinance.

‘I’m concerned my backyard will become a toilet’

Bruce Trebil, a Mitchell resident who lives along the Dry Run Creek bike path, opposed the use of shock collars over concerns it will turn his backyard into a dog “dumping ground.”

Trebil claimed the city allowing shock collars instead of requiring leashes like the previous ordinance stated will allow dogs to have much more roaming range that could ultimately lead to more dog droppings in his backyard.

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“If you allow the shock collar, they can roam. I’m concerned they will start using my backyard as their toilet. I also have a garden in the back, and they would probably run through that,” Trebil said. “There are also a lot of rabbits in that area. I don't think the shock collar is going to stop the dog from running after it.”

Tjarks shared similar concerns around shock collars being able to control a dog, especially one that’s potentially larger and more aggressive than others.

“I was in a home with a pitbull last week, and I thought to myself there is no shock collar in the world that could stop it if it saw another dog it wanted to take on,” Tjarks said.

In response to Trebil’s concerns, Everson said the city’s pet ordinance currently deems any pet coming onto another property without the owner’s consent is an undesired action that can result in a penalty if caught in the act.

However, Trebil has seen challenges of enforcing incidents involving a dog coming onto a property owner’s yard without their consent.

“I’ve called some people in, and they are gone by the time they (officers) get there... I end up picking it up,” Trebil said.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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