Proposed Harsher Consequences For Vicious Dogs

In 2016 there were 305 dog bites in Sioux Falls and 197 dogs were deemed vicious.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Sioux Falls City Council could soon update its rules about vicious dogs.

A proposal would make it easier for the city to euthanize pets that attack people.

“Frankly there are some dogs that we’ve had concerns about sending back home,” says City of Sioux Falls Animal Control Supervisor Julie DeJong.

DeJong, along with the city assistant attorney, briefed council members about updates they would like to see to their vicious dogs’ ordinance.

Right now, an animal can be declared vicious if it attacks or bites someone.

The owner then has to have $100,000 worth of animal liability insurance, they have to muzzle the animal in public and put up a ‘beware of dog’ sign on their property.

If the owner doesn’t comply, then the city has the right to euthanize the dog.

“What we want to do is add another level of a vicious dog to our ordinance,” says DeJong.

Meaning the definitions would change.

DeJong says the current rules would pertain to a ‘restricted’ dog, and a dog deemed ‘vicious’ would have harsher consequences.

“No one would be able to possess a vicious animal, and the animal would have to be euthanized,” she says.

The police chief and DeJong would be the ones determining whether a dog is vicious or not, using the Dunbar Scale.

It has six levels ranging from an attack that barely left a mark on the skin, to the highest, an attack that kills someone.

Level 4 and higher would allow the city to euthanize a dog.

“Just to seize an animal for kill without a chance for rehabilitation is equally as ruthless, and places all the blame on the animal and not the animal,” says Liz Muilenburg who spoke against the updated ordinance at the 5 p.m. meeting.

Some believe euthanization is too harsh.

“Have a city policy to help get [the dogs] in to some kind of obedience training first before a flat out euthanization,” adds dog-owner Sandra Emery.

“We have certain instances where people can do everything right that’s on the restrictive scale, and then there’s another accident,” counters DeJong.

DeJong says the city would rather not take the chance of a dog attacking someone for the second time.

“We feel that this is important for the city and to keep the city safe, so it’s something that we want to move forward with.”

Under the proposed ordinance, a vicious dog case would have to go through an appeals hearing before the dog is euthanized.

No dog can be deemed vicious if the person who was attacked was trespassing or taunting the animal.

City Council will have to pass the ordinance twice before it becomes law.

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