City contemplates stricter ‘dangerous dog’ ordinance

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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

A new proposed amendment to the City of Madison’s ordinance on animals aims to close a loophole that prevents the animal control department from placing stricter penalties on aggressive dogs.

According to Crystal Berisko, a Madison animal control officer, the current “Dangerous Dog,” ordinance only applies to dogs that have attacked people, but not to dogs that have attacked other animals or that have damaged property.

“We want to introduce an amendment that will allow us to deem these dogs as a public threat,” said Berikso. “These animals do not quite meet the criteria for a dangerous dog designation, but if we can classify them as a public threat, then we can issue citations and fines based on that and sustain that designation for 18 months.”

According to Berikso, dogs that have killed other animals, attack other animals, show “severe aggression” to the public or are a consistent “nuisance” could fall under this new proposed classification. Once classified as a public threat, animal control could mandate stricter confinement for the dog in a pen or on a leash or could ultimately impound the dog if more violations occur during the 18 months designation period.

But city council members were wary of the proposal.

“That sounds like some overreach to me,” said City Councilwoman Chris Hodges.

“I think we are walking on a slippery slope with this one,” said Councilman Joe DiLetto. “I commend you for your efforts, but there are a lot of things in here that disturb me, but we can talk about those another time.”

Madison Animal Control is also working on determining the limit of animals a person can have on their property based on acreage size instead of zoning status.

The council will review all proposed changes to the ordinance in coming weeks before taking a vote.

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