City Council will consider cracking down on dangerous dogs

With Twin Cities dogs attacking — and in one case killing — people in record numbers this year, the Minneapolis City Council is considering cracking down on dangerous dogs.

“This has not been a good year,” said Lori Olson, Minneapolis’ deputy director of environmental safety and management.

The City Council is re-vamping city ordinances in an attempt to prevent more attacks from happening. If enacted, the new restrictions will make it easier to confiscate unlicensed dogs, while also taking into account dog sizes, histories and conditions when determining if they are a threat.

Right now, unlicensed dog owners can be ticketed and fined by animal control. Under the proposed ordinance changes, animal control would be able to seize any unlicensed animals from their owners. Olson said the intent of the ordinance change is not to round up all the unlicensed dogs in the city, but to provide the city with “another tool” to use in controlling aggressive or potentially dangerous animals. The new rule would be part of preventing bites and attacks from happening by taking potentially dangerous dogs out of abusive or negligent homes.

The ordinance changes will also clarify what constitutes a dangerous dog in an attempt to get to the heart of which dogs really are a threat. Olson said the new policy will get at the “true problem” of mistreated and abused dogs, as well as dogs that are used as protection or a weapon to scare people are trained to be mean or are abused. The new ordinances will weigh in on factors such as dog size and strength, whether the dog was abused and what the damage was.

“A Chihuahua is not going to potentially rip someone’s throat out,” Olson said.     

Anne Hendrickson is the owner of Downtown Dogs, a daycare service for dogs, and a member of the task force charged with looking at making changes to Minneapolis’ dog ordinances.

There have been at least a dozen cases of dog attacks in the Twin Cities this year, which Hendrickson says is an “aberration.” She said the cases she is familiar with were “all a result of irresponsible dog ownership.” Many sprouted from owners using their dogs as weapons and for personal safety, as in the case of seven-year-old Zachary King Jr. of Minneapolis, who was killed by a dog his family got for protection.

As a dog trainer and local pet columnist, Hendrickson emphasizes the importance of socializing dogs when they are young. She believes that new puppies should meet at least 100 dogs and 100 people before they are four months old. Dogs are scared of the unfamiliar and “scared dogs bite,” Hendrickson said. She said the ordinance changes will help to “improve the safety of citizens and do it through insuring humane care for dogs.”

Want to put in your two cents on the ordinance before the new rules are final?

The Minneapolis City Council will hold a public hearing on the dangerous dog ordinances at 9 a.m. on Nov. 14 in Room 317 of City Hall, 350 S. 5th St.