Kalispell Council Debates Dangerous Dog Ordinance

By Beacon Staff

The Kalispell City Council delayed until October a decision on changes to laws regulating animals at its Monday meeting. Though a revision of Kalispell’s animal regulations is broadly prompted by several dog attacks over the last year, City Attorney Charlie Harball told the council the rules have not been updated since 1947, and so are overdue for some amendments.

Key among the changes are to make most violations civil infractions, and no longer misdemeanors, so they would hold no possibility of jail time or jury trials, but would allow the city more latitude in fashioning punishments like fines or conditions.

Proposed changes include making it a violation for a pet owner to not clean up waste from their pet on public or private property not their own, that owners must clean up waste from domestic animals on their property within 48 hours, and deposit it in a receptacle they own that is sealed from flies. That receptacle would have to be emptied “not less than once each week.”

Under the new animal regulations, the municipal court would be given the authority to declare a dog dangerous if it determines the dog, unprovoked, injures someone or attacks another domestic animal, off that dog owner’s property. Owners of a dangerous dog would be required, at their own expense: to erect warning signs around their property; keep the dog in an enclosure; get an identification tattoo on the dog’s leg; purchase a surety bond of $50,000; pay an annual $250 registration fee; and notify police if the dog gets loose. An animal warden or police officers could seize the dog if the owner failed to pay the fees, and under some circumstances, the dog could be put to death.

During council discussion of the animal regulations, members questioned whether an appointed panel of citizens to help in dealing with punishments for animal regulation violations was necessary or appropriate. They also questioned whether forcing pet owners to clean up after their animals on their property within 48 hours made sense, particularly in winter. Another question concerned how the city limit of no more than four dogs per house would apply to a litter or puppies.

The Kalispell council will take the issue up again at its first meeting in October.

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