Wednesday, July 29, 2015

‘Vicious dog’ law might be upsetting to many

Law has been on the books since 2008
J-E Editor

Webster County Dog Warden Aaron Richmond is warning dog owners that many of them are currently in violation of county law. A little known county ordinance requires all ‘vicious dogs’ to be registered, spayed or neutered and kept either in a secured pen or indoors. Owners are also required to have a $100,000 homeowners liability insurance plan. Richmond said that most dog owners have done none of these things.

“The county put this ordinance into effect in 2008,” he explained. “Since then we haven’t had a constant, full-time dog warden in the county, and a lot of new people have moved into the county. Maybe people aren’t even aware of the ordinance. But we can’t just blatantly ignore the ordinance. That’s breaking the law.”

Richmond said that he personally knows of at least 50 addresses in the county that have ‘vicious dogs’ on the premises. At least twenty of those are within the city limits of Providence. What concerns him more is that he’s sure none of them are registered.
“We haven’t sold one ‘vicious dog’ tag this year,” he said. “We’ve sold a lot of the regular tags, but nobody has purchased one for a ‘vicious dog’.”

The 2008 ordinance lists any Pit Bull breed or mixed breed among what it considers ‘vicious’. Also included are wolf hybrids, tundra shepherds and any animal that has shown itself to be a threat to the public—including haven bitten humans on numerous occasions.
“I know this is going to be a shock to people and they are going to be mad,” he said. “But this has been the law in Webster County for seven years. We’ve just not had anybody permanent to enforce it.”

Dog owners who do not follow the law could face numerous penalties. If the dog warden comes across a dog that is not registered, the animal can immediately be seized. The owner can be charged with ‘Harboring a Dangerous Animal’.

“From there it would be in the hands of the court,” said Richmond. “They could most likely get their dog back, if they registered it.”

When the ordinance was written in 2008, Webster County based it on a older ordinance passed by the Union County Fiscal Court.

“Union County doesn’t have a problem with pit bulls,” said Richmond. “Their shelter only sees one or two per month, but they’ve had this law and enforced it a lot longer than we have. In Webster County we get a lot more pit bulls in our shelter.”

There are currently two put bulls housed at the new animal shelter in Dixon. Richmond said its worse for these animals that others because he has such a hard time adopting them out.
He points out that many of the dogs that fall under this classification may be good dogs and great pets.

“I will be more than happy to help anyone who has questions,” he said. “We have all of the dog ordinances available at the shelter for anyone that wants to take a look at them.”

When the county enacted the ordinance, they were told that the Union County definition of ‘vicious dog’ was based on the United Kennel Club’s (UKC) definition. However, that is a statement that the UKC denies.

“The UKC would never state that a dog is vicious just based on its breed,” said Beth Anglemeyer with the UKC’s dog events department said in a phone interview on Friday. “I’m not sure where they got that information, but we would in no way support any breed specific legislation. Any dog can be ‘vicious’. It depends on their actions, not their breed.”

In fact, the UKC website is filled with stories and opinions against breed specific dog laws. Anyone interested in finding out more can contact: .

“I’m not trying to go after people’s dogs,” Richmond said. “I don’t make the law. The Fiscal Court makes the law, and only the Fiscal Court can change the law. As dog warden, I’m not doing my duty if I am not enforcing the law.”

Richmond explained that if an animal that falls under what the county defines as a ‘vicious dog’ were to maul a child, he, as the dog warden, could be held at least partially responsible.

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