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Recent incidents call Newton's vicious dog ordinance into question

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 11:37 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

The latest in a string of incidents involving vicious dogs in the Newton community has prompted the Newton City Council to take a closer look at the city ordinance that defines and monitors such animals.

In an incident on the afternoon of Oct. 7, the Newton Police Department and Jasper County Animal Rescue League responded to a call involving two dogs running at large in the 400th block of E. 21st St. S. in Newton. 

Eyewitness accounts by those in the neighborhood said that the two dogs, likely pitbulls, seemed to be playing with something in a neighbor's yard. Upon further inspection, it was determined that the dogs were playing with the body of a neighbor's pet cat, which they had previously killed. 

These allegations were confirmed by Jeff Hoebelheinrich of the Newton Police Department. The dogs were further cornered into a garage by officers and released to JCARL, where they were taken for holding until Oct. 9. 

While neither of the dogs were wearing tags at the time of the incident, it was determined that the were licensed by Chad Berry, 30, of Newton, who was charged with two municipal infractions for dogs running at large. 

This incident, along with various other recent reports involving dogs in the county, has prompted the Newton City Council to add a discussion of the vicious dog ordinance to their next meeting, which will convene on Oct. 29th.

The currene ordinance (13.0330) states, "no person owning possessing, harboring, or having the care of a vicious dog as defined in this article shall permit such animal to go unconfined upon the premises of such person and shall not permit the dog to go beyond the premises unless the dog is securely leashed and muzzled."

Furthermore, a "vicious dog" is defined as "a dog with a known propensity, tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked, as evidenced by a single previous incident of unprovoked chasing, snapping or barking at human beings or domestic animals so as to potentially cause injury or to otherwise endanger their safety, coupled with a second such incident occurring at any time thereafter; or a dog which has on any single occasion caused serious injury to a person. "Serious in jury" is then defined as "any breaking of the skin above the shoulders, or any injury at or below the shoulders causing heavy bleeding, damage beneath the skin, or stitches."

The penalty, as set forth by the ordinance, for improper containment or muzzling of a vicious dog is impoundment via Animal Control.

"There have been a couple instances in the last several weeks that have caused us to take the ordinance into question and make sure that it's appropriate and addresses our needs," said Bob Knabel, City Administrator.

"Mayor pro-tem Hansen asked that we bring it to the council because, the fact that it's a continual issue is further cause for us to take another look at it as something that needs to be reviewed," he added.