County approves change to dangerous dog ordinance


Dogs have the moniker of being man’s best friend, but, when dogs are deemed dangerous, there needs to be legal remedies in place. At the Jan. 21 meeting of the Wright County Board, Assistant County Attorney Brian Asleson led a discussion about the county’s role in dealing with dogs gone bad.
Asleson came to the board to renew a contract with Crossroads Animal Shelter, where the sheriff’s office takes dogs that have been involved in attacks or need to be quarantined. The board unanimously approved the two-year, $6,000 contract, but then the discussion turned to changes that have been implemented by Crossroads for those dogs deemed dangerous.
“We adopted this ordinance in January 2010 and came up with the definitions of what is and isn’t a dangerous dog,” Asleson said. “The state had its own framework of a law concerning dangerous dogs, but there was a weakness to it. It didn’t apply an appeals process in the event an owner would contend that his or her dog wasn’t dangerous. Our ordinance tightened up those definitions.”
By definition, a dangerous dog is one that, when unprovoked, inflicts substantial bodily harm or disfigurement on a person, kills a domestic animal while off the owner’s property, has bitten one or more persons on two or more separate occasions, has been trained or encouraged to fight with another animal or whose owner has been found to be in possession of training equipment used in dog fighting. A potentially dangerous dog is defined as a dog that, when unprovoked, has bitten a human or domestic animal on public or private property; had chased or approached a person, including someone on a bicycle on streets, sidewalks or property other than the owner’s property in an attacking attitude; or has a known history or propensity, tendency or disposition to attack while unprovoked.
Once a dog is deemed dangerous, it is micro-chipped so it can be tracked. Owners are required to register their dogs with Crossroads and pay a $250 annual fee to cover enforcement costs.
 “A dog may react completely different around a family member than it does with a stranger,” Asleson said. “It’s difficult at times because, with the cost of keeping a dangerous dog in the system, some owners feel like they may have to opt to have the dog destroyed. It’s not a pleasant situation because, whether dangerous or not, the dog usually is a family pet, but just has an issue with others.”
More information appears in this week's Messenger.