Mitchell City Council, mayor seeking to clarify pet ordinances — including use of remote collars
Koster said the city’s existing vicious and restricted animal ordinance is a “little murky” when two domestic animals attack each other.
MITCHELL — After being challenged by a Mitchell resident for using a shock collar while running his dog, Mayor Bob Everson is proposing to address a gray area in a city animal ordinance to allow the use of remote collars.
While the city’s existing ordinance regulating animals at large does not technically allow “remote pet collars” like shock collars, Everson said former Mitchell Chief of Public Safety Lyndon Overweg informed him prior to retiring that the ordinance is not enforced if a pet has a collar on because it’s considered a leash.
“We want to modify our ordinance to match that,” Everson said.
The Mitchell City Council approved the first reading of the proposed changes to the city’s animals at large ordinance during the June 6 meeting. However, some additional proposed changes like tweaking what it means for an animal to be under complete control came up against opposition from a council member.
Councilman Dan Allen took issue with the city’s definition on what it means for a pet to be under complete control of the owner.
The ordinance states an animal “straying too far” from its owner is considered one of several “undesired actions” that breaches being under complete control.
Allen noted how common it is for dogs to wander a few blocks away from the owner’s purview and still be under the control of the owner without causing any issues. He added it would be challenging for city officials to enforce animals that are considered not being under the complete control of the owner.
“So you’re saying if I have a dog that wanders five blocks away from me, you can’t pick him up if the dog catcher or police officer gets to it. That shock collar can still work if it’s a few blocks away,” Allen said during the recent council meeting.
In response to Allen’s concerns, City Attorney Justin Johnson said there is an “expectation that a dog is not going to stray five blocks away.”
The city’s ordinance defines complete control as a “state where an animal is restrained by leash, verbal command, or remote pet collar from taking an action” that is not desired by the animal’s owner or a member of the owner’s immediate family.
“If there’s not evidence that the animal is under complete control of the owner, yeah, I think the officers have the ability to take that dog,” Johnson said. “I think there’s going to have to be some kind of direct observation of that animal. You’re not just going to be able to let them wander free. It might be in the same yard, the same window or something like that.”
Although Johnson acknowledged that the changes will come with some “growing pains,” he said the modified animals at large ordinance should be fairly easy to enforce.
Proposed changes for restricted, dangerous animals sparks mixed reactions
One of the biggest proposed changes to the city’s dangerous and restricted animals ordinance is requiring a non-resident owner of an animal deemed restricted or vicious to notify the Mitchell Police Department if they are bringing a restricted animal to the city.
Councilman Steve Rice took issue with the proposed change seeking to require non-resident owners of restricted and dangerous animals to notify Mitchell police when bringing their respective animal, calling it a move that would make people with restricted and dangerous animals who move to Mitchell a criminal.
Rice also questioned how the proposed notification procedure for restricted and dangerous animals coming to Mitchell would be enforced.
“It just seems a little weird to me, and I have no idea how you would enforce it,” Rice said during the June 6 council meeting.
Mitchell Police Chief Mike Koster said the proposed change would “keep the honest people honest.” Koster noted the city does not have an animal registry listing all restricted and dangerous animals in the city, which he indicated would make the process easier. However, Koster said he didn’t want to go down that road.
“We’ve had folks move to town who will call ahead and say, ‘I have animal (x) that has been declared whatever their terminology be, and what are your restrictions in the city for my animal?’ I know we’ve stumbled on a few that we found out later that we weren’t told about,” Koster said.
Koster said the city’s existing vicious and restricted animal ordinance is a “little murky” when two domestic animals attack each other, noting the city’s animal control officer has experienced issues when dealing with the respective type of incident.
“We’re asking for some clarification, as other cities have done, whether a dog attacks a human or another dog, it’s all considered the same type of behavior. We’re not looking at the victim, we’re looking at the behavior of the dog itself and its propensity to bite or its lack of inhibition to bite,” Koster said.
To clear up the ordinance, city officials are proposing to tweak the definitions used to deem animals as restricted, dangerous and vicious and add requirements for maintaining the respective animals. The Mitchell City Council will consider approving the modified ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting.
If approved, restricted animals being supervised outdoors would be required to be muzzled and leashed no longer than 6 feet from the handler, who must be at least 18. Several other notable tweaks for restricted animals would require owners of the animal to install visible signage on an escape-proof fence.
Restricted animals would be defined as “any animal, when unprovoked, in a vicious or terrorizing manner menaces, or bites, or inflicts injury, or assaults, or otherwise attacks a human being or other domestic animal under circumstances which do not rise to the level of being declared a vicious animal.”
The city’s proposed modified ordinance defines a vicious animal as “any animal which, in a vicious or terrorizing manner bites, or inflicts injury, or assaults, or otherwise attacks a human being or other domestic animal and the resulting harm is equivalent to a level 4 or higher injury on the Dunbar Scale.” In addition, an animal could be deemed vicious if the respective animal is already dubbed restricted and gets involved in a second incident.
If an animal is deemed vicious in the city, it’s declared a public nuisance. The ordinance states that any vicious animal in Mitchell city limits “shall be impounded, removed, or be humanely euthanized.”