Chippewa Falls will not enact a ban on pit bulls — or any other specific type of dog.
The city’s Committee 3, which reviews public safety measures, will take up discussion on other ways to curb the city’s dog problem.
City leaders agreed Thursday night at a Committee of the Whole meeting that a ban on any single dog breed would not be a positive solution to the city’s dog problems.
“I don’t know if a specific dog breed ban is in the best interest of the city,” council member Mike Hanke said. “Other dogs are capable of doing the same thing (attacking).”
Every member of the council present Thursday (Chuck Hull was absent) echoed Hanke’s thoughts. With that, council President CW King said Committee 3 should focus on ways to strengthen penalties and requirements for owners.
Before the meeting, council members looked over research on what other municipalities had enacted for stricter dog laws.
Council members Brian Flynn and George Adrian strongly support increasing fines for dogs running at large or for vicious dogs, the city’s two current dog ordinances.
“I really think we have to go after the pocketbook,” Adrian said.
Flynn also suggested that Chippewa Falls could rehire an animal control officer to deal with loose dogs, possibly taking them to the Chippewa County Humane Association and requiring owners to claim the dogs and pay fees and boarding costs.
He noted this officer could be shared with the county and the village of Lake Hallie for cost savings.
Adrian said that an animal control officer in Chippewa Falls couldn’t be an assigned normal shift.
“We have dogs running loose 24/7,” he said. “It’s got to be on-call.”
With the solutions suggested at Thursday night’s meeting, the common view was that owners of problem dogs need to take more responsibility.
“We need to take steps to make people understand we will enforce more,” Mayor Greg Hoffman said. “The owners need to be more accountable.”
Among the more stringent requirements council member Bill Hicks mentioned were requiring liability insurance for dogs, as well as having fenced-in yards and kennels to prevent them getting out.
“If we can classify a dog as dangerous, then we can have certain requirements to keep that dog,” said Hicks, who chairs Committee 3.
Under state law, a municipality can take action against a dog after its second vicious incident — usually involving a bite. That’s how the city dealt in 2011 with Shay, a dog initially thought to be a pit bull but later called an American bulldog. Shay had two attacks within the city limits, and the city obtained a court order to put the dog down.
The issues the city had in that case — and does not want to repeat — included not being able to clearly identify an owner, and not being able to find Shay when others hid her.
“Once they find out someone is out to put animal down, they try to spirit it away,” city attorney Bob Ferg said.
He noted that the city of Superior has an ordinance where a dog can be determined to be vicious at a public hearing, and then the city imposes an annual fee for the owner to keep that dog.
“If you have that label, then it’s not a problem in court,” Ferg said.
About 10 people attended Thursday’s meeting, but public comment was not allowed.
Hicks said Committee 3 will allow people to speak and voice concerns and suggestions, and encouraged anyone interested to attend. A date for that meeting has not been set yet.