TOUGHER LAW: WDM Targets ‘Vicious’ Dogs

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How do you define “vicious dog”, and who makes the decision?

“I do think that there needs to be some division on severity and the intention of the bites,” said Tom Colvin, executive director of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.

He and the Animal Rescue League (ARL) watched another metro community simplify those questions, Monday.

“I think there’s a sentiment on the council that they think that these changes make the ordinance better for everybody in the community,” said West Des Moines mayor, Steve Gaer.

One unprovoked bite would bring West Des Moines Animal Control to the scene--but the officer would then evaluate the dog and determine whether it’s truly vicious—a good thing says the ARL.

“You do put a lot of power into the hands of an individual," Colvin pointed out, "but those are the people that are on the streets every day.”

But the city says officers would be helped in their decision by the new rules.

“I guess we want to give them parameters," Gaer said, "so that it’s not completely arbitrary so we’re trying to get some consistency and some things that our citizens can predict without having every situation so unique that you never know what animal control is gonna do.”

Even with just two animal control officers covering West Des Moines, Urbandale AND Clive, added workload isn’t expected to be a problem.

“We just do not have a lot of incidences where this is taking place," said West Des Moines police chief, Shaun LaDue, "so I don’t imagine that the workload will have a great strain on our current resources and applying the policy changes.”

West Des Moines says part of the inspiration stems from the Jena Wright situation in Prairie City, in which a four-year-old child was killed by a pit bull terrier while in Wright's care in April.  But the new ordinance would also pull the city in line with those of other cities in the Des Moines metro.


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