PROVO Redemption would not be beyond certain pooches under an ever-evolving proposed city ordinance aimed at putting the bite on vicious dogs and their owners.
Prompted by complaints that pit bulls are running wild in a neighborhood at 640 South 1000 East, City Councilwoman Midge Johnson has spearheaded an ordinance that would put ill-tempered canines and their owners on a tighter legal leash.
"People need to be responsible for their pets," Johnson said.
The proposed ordinance would establish a two-step ranking system for "dangerous dogs" and "at-risk" dogs. A canine would merit the more critical dangerous dog classification if it has attacked a person, menaced or killed any domestic animal, or if it was used in the commission of a crime, such as dogfighting or guarding illegal property.
Under the less stringent "at-risk" category, an animal control officer can deem a dog at-risk if it displays threatening or aggressive behavior. The owner of an at-risk dog would have to file photos of the dog with the police, place a microchip on the dog and provide insurance that covers injuries caused by the dog.
But the newly vetted proposal offers rowdy pooches under the "at-risk" category an opportunity to repent. If the owner provides proof of obedience training at a reputable club or business, and if the dog is offense free for 18 months, the at-risk classification would be removed.
"We think repentance is always great for the owners as well as the pets," Johnson said.
Previously, Johnson was exploring the option of a breed-specific ordinance with greater restrictions on pit bulls, but based on her research, she's come to the conclusion that there are not dog problems, but owner problems. She's also said a propensity for vicious behavior isn't exclusive to any particular breed.
Over the past two years, Provo police have received 93 reports of animal bites, according to a police report. Only nine incidents involved dogs described as pit bulls. Provo Police Capt. Jerry Harper noted that people often misidentify other dogs as pit bulls.
Johnson said she thinks this ordinance puts the city on track to better handle vicious dogs regardless of breed.
If an animal control officer receives complaints of a dangerous dog, it may be removed from the property. If it is returned, the owner would have to microchip the dog for tracking purposes and lock it in a secure pen. The owner would be required to file photos of the animal with police and provide proof of at least $100,000 in insurance in case the dog injures anyone.
When taken off the property, a dangerous dog would have to be muzzled and kept on a four-foot leash at all times. When driving, an owner would have to transport his or her dog in a closed, locked crate to prevent children from coming in contact with the animal. Any additional incidents or attacks could result in destruction of the dog.
The owner of an at-risk dog would also be required to provide secure fencing. And when off the property, the owner would have to keep the dog on a four-foot leash. If the dog becomes more aggressive, it could be bumped up to dangerous dog.
Other City Council members said they've seen an increase in the number of vicious animal reports in their districts after Johnson started exploring the restrictions.The council will readdress the issue at its next work session later this month.
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