A vicious-dog ordinance, aimed at curbing a dramatic rise in "doggie cases" or reported attacks by aggressive dogs, was unanimously approved Tuesday night by the Salt Lake City Council.
Animal-control director Earl "Lou" Lynes told the council that last year, his department cited 105 owners for their dogs attacking people. This year alone his office has issued 91 citations. Sixty-four complaints requesting destruction of dogs were made last year; 74 were made this year, he said.Much of the increase in reported attacks is because of better public awareness and a new-found relationship with a cooperative legal system, Lynes admitted. Nevertheless, the incidents are cause for action, he said.
Some of those attacks occurred in Myrna Feyh's Sugar House neighborhood.
"In the last month and a half we've had three vicious attacks on our street alone," she told the council. In one of those incidents, an 84-year-old deaf man was badly injured when a dog leaped a fence and attacked him.
"It's really scary, I'm really concerned when an 84-year-old man who can't hear . . . is attacked in his own back yard," she said.
Under the ordinance, an animal-control official may find a dog vicious if it is guilty of "vicious or terrorizing" attacks. The incidents must be unprovoked and outside the line of duty of so-called guard dogs.
An animal-control officer will conduct a hearing into the incident to determine if the dog is vicious. The officer's decision can be appealed to the mayor, Lynes said.
Unlike other laws that single out certain species like pit bull terriers, Salt Lake City's ordinance is not "breed specific," Lynes said.
Owners of vicious dogs must have $25,000 in liability insurance, display a warning sign, tattoo their dog and pay $50 over the regular license fee of $18 yearly to specially register their pet, under the ordinance.
Additionally, the owner must maintain an enclosure for the pet and must notify animal-control if the dog is loose. If the dog is outside the enclosure, it must be muzzled and on a chain no more than 3 feet long, the ordinance says.