An ordinance to set stricter standards for “dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs” made it through the Macon City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting Monday by a unanimous vote, even as several council members expressed skepticism that it and other animal control standards can be effectively enforced.
The ordinance may be voted on by the entire Council at its next scheduled meeting Dec. 21.
An earlier proposal from Councilmen Lonnie Miley and Larry Schlesinger also would have set limits on how many pets city residents could own. That idea has been dropped, but the dangerous-dog provisions are still in the latest draft, submitted by Miley alone.
According to the proposal, dogs with a record of biting or chasing people in a “vicious or terrorizing manner” could be deemed dangerous by an animal control officer. Owners of such animals could appeal to the Macon-Bibb County Board of Health, but if unsuccessful would have to buy a special registration tag for $100, post warning signs, keep the dog enclosed or restrained, and buy $15,000 liability insurance and a $15,000 surety bond.
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“Is there any dog that could not be considered potentially dangerous?” Committee Chairman Virgil Watkins asked.
Any dog, even a small one, could be declared dangerous if it got out and threatened to cause serious injury, Assistant City Attorney Beth Duncan said.
That designation would be up to Animal Control Director Jim Johnson and his staff. Schlesinger asked about the distinction between “dangerous” and “potentially dangerous.”
A potentially dangerous dog would be one that’s loose and threatening, but to get a dog classified as dangerous, it would have to have actually caused serious harm, Johnson said. Even that would be negated if the dog had been provoked or if it was defending its owner or territory, he said.
There’s already a city designation for dangerous dogs. The requirement that they be covered by $15,000 of insurance has been in place since 1989, Watkins said, though Johnson added that only two dogs in the city are under that restriction now.
Keith Moffett, the mayor’s internal affairs director, said the new ordinance essentially would mirror what’s already in the state code.
Councilwoman Nancy White said she thinks the real problem will be locating the owners of dangerous dogs. She and Councilwoman Elaine Lucas said groups of dogs roam both of their neighborhoods, intimidating residents.
White wondered what happened to the city’s pet licensing requirement, and Johnson said that’s no longer enforced.
Rabies tags and pet licenses are separate requirements. Both the city and Bibb County require rabies tags to prove vaccination, available from veterinarians, but only the city demanded that cat and dog owners buy a registration tag from animal control. That requirement fell into limbo about eight months ago when city and county animal control were combined.
As the ordinance won approval, Watkins chimed in with a request for the city attorney’s office to draft a proposal for buying Johnson 10 more dog traps. Animal control now has four, plus 20 cat traps, Johnson said. Dog traps cost about $486 each, he said.