Wright board approves change to dangerous dog ordinance

By John Holler

Contributing Writer

Dogs have the moniker of being man’s best friend, but, when dogs are deemed to be dangerous, there need to be legal remedies to handle such situations. At the Jan. 21 meeting of the Wright County Board, Assistant County Attorney Brian Asleson came before the board to discuss the county’s role in dealing with dogs gone bad.

Asleson came to the board to renew its contract with Crossroads Animal Shelter, where the sheriff department brings dogs that have been involved in attacks or need to be quarantined. The board unanimously approved the two-year, $6,000 contract, but then the discussion turned to changes that have been implemented by Crossroads for those dogs deemed dangerous.

“We adopted this ordinance in January 2010 and came up with the definitions of what is and isn’t a dangerous dog,” Asleson said. “The state had its own framework of a law concerning dangerous dogs, but there was a weakness to it. It didn’t apply an appeals process in the event an owner would contend the his or her dog wasn’t dangerous. Our ordinance tightened up those definitions.”

By definition a dangerous dog is one that, when unprovoked, inflicts substantial bodily harm or disfigurement on a person, kills a domestic animal while off the owner’s property, has bitten one or more persons on two or more separate occasions, has been trained or encouraged to fight with another animal or whose owner has been found to be in possession of training equipment used in dog-fighting. A potentially dangerous dog is defined as a dog that, when unprovoked, has bitten a human or domestic animal on public or private property, had chased or approached a person, including someone on a bicycle on streets, sidewalks or property other than the owner’s property in an attacking attitude or has a known history or propensity, tendency or disposition to attacked while unprovoked.

Once a dog is deemed dangerous, it is automatically micro-chipped so it can be tracked. Owners are required to register their dogs with Crossroads and pay a $250 annual fee to cover the costs of enforcement that the dog is in a safe enclosure and isn’t a danger to others.

“A dog may react completely different around a family member as it does with a stranger,” Asleson said. “It’s difficult at times because, with the cost of keeping a dangerous in the system, some owners feel like they may have to opt to have the dog destroyed. It’s not a pleasant situation because, whether dangerous or not, the dog usually is a family pet, but just has an issue with others.”

In order to include the $250 annual fee for dogs deemed dangerous as part of the ordinance, the county needs to conduct a public hearing. The board approved setting a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. at the Feb. 11 board meeting to get public input before making the change.

In other items on the Jan. 21 agenda, the board:

DISCUSSED an item laid over from the first county board meeting of the year – setting the schedule for regularly scheduled board meetings. The idea had been floated out to have some meetings at night rather than the 9 a.m. Tuesday meeting schedule the county has maintained for decades. Commissioner Charlie Borrell said he was in favor of the idea of having occasional night meetings, but hasn’t heard from his constituents that they are in favor of such meetings. Commissioner Pat Sawatzke said that residents have become so engrained to the time of board meetings that, if the county was to switch and residents became aware of a topic of interest to them on the agenda, it would create confusion and people would show up at 9 a.m. only to find no commissioners there. The board unanimously approved keeping all regularly scheduled board meetings for 9 a.m. Tuesdays.

DISCUSSED selecting the meeting dates well in advance that would be canceled. The board cancels a meeting in months that have five Tuesdays. There are five of those this year, but much can change between now and later in the year. As a compromise, the board approved cancelling two meetings in the first six months of the year – the April 8 and July 8 meetings.

TABLED for one week approval of a change order on the cleanup of County Ditch 10. The change order requested would include an additional 500 feet of cleanup and the removal of 20 trees at a total cost of $4,425. Commissioner Mark Daleiden asked that the item be laid over for one week because he doesn’t believe the original contract had a price of $200 per tree removed, which the requested change order included. While the commissioners believe the additional work needs to be done, it was felt the tree removal cost should be the same as the rest of the contract. The item will be returned at the Jan. 28 board meeting after more information is gathered.

WAS introduced to new Assistant County Attorney Christos Jensen. Jensen comes to Wright County after spending the last several years in a similar position in Kandiyohi County.