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New ordinance would tame vicious dogs

Posted: Friday, January 04, 2008

Numerous complaints from residents have led one assemblywoman to propose a new borough law aimed at controlling vicious dogs outside borough cities.

Assembly President Grace Merkes, of Sterling, is seeking introduction of Ordinance 2008-01 at Tuesday's meeting. It would get a public hearing Feb. 5.

The ordinance would enact a new chapter in the borough code providing for impounding and disposing of vicious dogs in areas of the borough beyond city limits.

The cities of Kenai, Soldotna, Homer, Seward and Seldovia already provide animal control services, and often to residents living beyond city limits. State law allows boroughs to license, impound and dispose of animals on either an areawide or nonareawide basis.

The ordinance would define a "vicious dog" as one that has bitten any person or persons on one or more separate occasions, causing the skin to break, if the bite occurred without provocation. The "vicious dog" label also would apply to any dog that caused serious injury or death to a human being.

A dog would not be consider vicious if it caused injury to a person who was committing a willful act of trespass or other tort on the property of the owner or keeper of the dog. Nor would a dog be considered vicious if the victim of the bite was testing, tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog or committing or attempting to commit a crime at the time.

The ordinance would authorize the mayor to solicit proposals and enter agreements with public or private entities to provide enforcement services. Contractors only would be authorized to capture animals in response to a request from an Alaska State Trooper or physician reporting an attack.

Contractors would be required to employ one or more trained and experienced animal control officers, who would be authorized to capture dogs by any reasonable means. However, nothing in the ordinance would require an officer to capture any dog.

The ordinance also would provide protections for animal control officers, such as authorizing them to pursue animals onto private property and prohibiting any person from interfering or hindering them in performance of their duties.

Other provisions cover disposition of dogs, forfeiture of ownership rights, set fees for redeeming impounded animals and establish a mechanism for hearings and appeals.

"My intent is to only address vicious dogs that have bitten people and not to establish a full-blown dog control program," Merkes said in a memo to the assembly.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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