VPCC to review city’s vicious dog ordinance
By: CARISSA HEBERT
At its September meeting, the city council will consider increasing its penalties for those who maintain animals determined to be “vicious dogs.” This move comes on the heels of a vicious attack on an elderly woman Sunday morning here.
Mayor Bill Jeanmard and the council, as well as the city’s legal advisor, are in the process of reviewing the proposed changes now. In order to protect citizens from these types of animal attacks, the mayor is hoping the changes can be introduced at the city’s next meeting.
If the ordinance is amended, the city will increase its fines from between $100 and $250 up to $500. A violator could also face more jail time. The ordinance now provides for up to 60 days in jail, but the amendment will state up to 180 days.
At the moment, the owner of a dog, determined to be vicious, must carry liability insurance of at least $50,000. If approved, the liability will increase to $100,000. The revision also includes language to notify the city if a policy is canceled or terminated, and the owner must sign a statement indicating liability insurance will be kept during a 12-month period for which a permit is sought. This must be done on a yearly basis. The ordinance states if an owner cannot obtain insurance, the owner will have to surrender the animal for humane destruction.
In addition to these changes, new language states no one shall interfere with the animal control officer. And when an animal control officer determines a dog is vicious, it shall be impounded immediately without a hearing. When the animal is determined to be dangerous to the public, the animal control officer will be able to order the destruction of the animal after notifying the owner. The owner may request a hearing before the council. The owner will be responsible for boarding costs and other fees.
It also will be the owner’s obligation to notify the animal control officer when a dog is loose or unconfined; has bitten a human being or attacked another animal; sold, given away or died; or has moved. The owner will have to provide the animal control officer with the name, address and phone number of the new owner.
Police Chief Neal Lartigue said he is in support of strengthening the penalties for the owners of vicious dogs, especially pitbulls. Although he is an animal lover, he said stiffer penalties are needed to keep these animals from hurting others.