Politics & Government

City to require warning signs on homes of dangerous dogs

Owners of dogs deemed dangerous by the Animal Control Department will have to buy this sign from the city and display it prominently on their property.
Owners of dogs deemed dangerous by the Animal Control Department will have to buy this sign from the city and display it prominently on their property.

Faced with an increase in dog bite reports, the Wichita City Council put some teeth in its animal control ordinance, including a provision to require owners of dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs to put warning signs on their homes.

Under the ordinance, any dog, regardless of size or breed, can be deemed “potentially dangerous” if it bites someone and leaves a mark, or if it kills a cat or other domestic animal, said police Capt. Michael Allred, who runs the city Animal Control Department.

That’s lower than the current standards for a dangerous dog, which center more on bites that cause significant injury and unprovoked attacks.

Allred said that while any dog that bites someone could be deemed potentially dangerous, animal-control officers will evaluate incidents and won’t put low-risk canines on the “potentially dangerous” list. “There’s some common sense that goes into it,” he said.

For the past eight years, animal bites reported in the city have fluctuated in the range of about 1,000 to 1,100 a year.

In 2016, the city got 1,082 bite reports, up from 997 in 2015. The peak, 1,105, came in 2014.

Allred said Wichita is 23rd in the nation for dogs biting postal carriers.

“This is not a statistic we are proud of,” he said.

In addition to the new ordinance, Allred said the department will propose to hire “kennel techs” to take care of the animals in the shelter and a person to pick up dead animals, which would free five officers for field duty responding to calls and investigating cases.

Among those pleading for the ordinance was Wichita Postmaster Ryon Knopik.

Postal carriers face a special danger from dogs as they walk neighborhoods with the mail. Knopik said they deserve to be able “to go to work and go home safe.”

“I’ve been in those emergency rooms when dogs attacked my employees and it’s not pretty when they’ve had to go through rabies shots,” he said.

Other key provisions in the new ordinance include:

▪  Increased fines for dogs running at large: to $100 for first offense, $200 for second offense and $300 for third offense. The current fines are $50, $100 and $200.

▪  Increases in the minimum fines for allowing a dog to attack or bite to $250 for first offense, $500 for second offense and $1,000 for third offense. The current fines are $150, $250 and $500.

▪  Appeals of dangerous dog designations will be heard by judges in Municipal Court. Now, those appeals are decided by Allred as the police captain in charge of animal control.

▪  A prohibition on transferring a dangerous dog to someone else without written permission from the court.

▪  Establishing a misdemeanor for failing to comply with orders from Animal Control or the court in dangerous dog cases.

▪  Setting an annual license fee of $50 for dogs deemed potentially dangerous and $300 for dogs deemed dangerous.

▪  A ban on exotic animals including alligators, caimans, crocodiles, turtles, monitor lizards, iguanas, tegus, anacondas, boa constrictors and pythons, except for the small ball python.

While the list of banned exotic animals may seem odd, Allred said it’s actually necessary.

“About three months ago we did confiscate an alligator in south Wichita,” he said.

The ordinance was proposed by a 10-member subcommittee of the Animal Control Board.

“We put a lot of work into it,” said John Stevens, who served on the subcommittee.

He said the group met for nine months and often argued over the provisions. But “when it came down to the vote, we voted unanimously” to recommend it to the council, he said.

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