A Des Moines County Animal Control Board looks imminent after a heated debate in a Board of Supervisors work session Tuesday.
Calling their drafted ordinance a good start that will likely need tweaking, supervisors rallied around a chopped down version of a draft they previously considered and voted against. Supervisor Tom Broeker went through the old ordinance to cut out unwanted passages. His five-page draft has removed all mentions of leash requirements and repercussions for a dog running "at large." What's left is the creation of an animal control board and details of the powers it would wield.
"If we have a problem, we can tweak it," said Supervisor Jim Cary. "This gets the leash law out of it."
The meeting was well attended by concerned citizens interested in the process.
Some issues were less contested and are likely to stick through any further changes: dogs that are chasing people, maiming or killing livestock, biting or trying to bite people are likely to wind up before the board.
The debates, rather, largely hinged around an issue of property rights.
While the board has heard a slew of comments, three major dog bite incidents in the last year and a half caused this whole discussion to develop. Of those bites, two were on the dog owner's property. Those were the young girl bitten in 2016 by supposed "wolf-dog" hybrids, and a neighbor dog biting Judy Mennen's son. At the meeting, Mennen and the boy's grandmother, Barb Miller, spoke in favor of increased animal control.
Mennen, Miller and Sheriff Mike Johnstone aired worries the proposed ordinance would do nothing to deal with situations like those, which directly made the board consider this problem in the first place.
Others, including the three supervisors, were concerned about the ordinance growing too sweeping. A dog purchased for protection, they said, would now be breaking the law by upholding its duty.
However, as the details were discussed, a consensus grew that the ordinance would have helped with those bites as it is currently written, and wouldn't make a guard dog biting an intruder illegal.
Suppose a dog owner invites someone onto their unincorporated county property and doesn't warn them about their dog's biting tendencies. If the dog bites the guest, then sheriff deputies could come impound the dog, and it would likely go before the animal control board. Alternatively, if someone trespasses and gets bitten, the dog owner is likely in the clear.
The intention in all this is to add a large amount of discretion to the ordinance. Dogs would get referred to the animal control board by law enforcement or public health workers, who would exercise their own discretion when dealing with citizen complaints before passing them along to the board, which in turn would deliberate over the dog's fate.
The board would include five members, a licensed or retired veterinarian, a livestock owner and three residents of unincorporated county areas. All members must live in Des Moines County.
Once formed, the board would meet to consider complaints. Their meetings would be open to the public. The board can declare a dog to be either vicious or potentially dangerous. Vicious dogs can be ordered humanely euthanized at the owner's expense, or placed with a rescue organization. The board can place restrictions on potentially dangerous dogs, including enclosure and leash requirements.
The board isn't official yet. It will need approval at three upcoming public hearings before passing.