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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Springfield-Greene County Health Department will be presenting big changes to how Animal Control deals with a variety of animal issues, including aggressive, biting and nuisance dogs, tonight at Springfield’s City Council meeting.
The changes aim to encourage responsible pet ownership while also protecting the public.
Ordinance changes going before council tonight first emerged as a recommendation from the city’s Animal Issues Task Force. Since the task force issued its recommendation report in 2013, SGCHD has been working to change policy and implement new ordinances. This has included working on a proposed—but not yet funded--new city animal shelter and banning parking lot sales of animals.
The proposals coming before council tonight would focus on changes regarding nuisance and restricted dogs.
This proposed protocol would give SGCHD more authority to encourage responsible pet ownership among owners who repeatedly let their dogs run loose.
Under this plan, if an animal control officer finds a dog running at large more than once in a 12-month timeframe, that dog would be administratively labeled as a nuisance dog.
This declaration would require the dog be licensed as a nuisance dog, be microchipped, have the legally required rabies vaccination and be spayed or neutered. This would also come with a $50 annual license fee each year.
If, after two years, the dog doesn’t have any more problems, the dog then rolls off of that list. In 2014, we had 60 dogs that were caught running loose more than once.
Restricted DogsThe proposed restricted dog protocol would be triggered after a dog bites a person or another animal or displays aggressive behavior.
In a bite situation, the first step would be to evaluate that bite using the Dunbar Scale. The Dunbar Scale is an unbiased rubric used to determine the severity and potential for future harm resulting from a dog bite.
At a level four or above, the dog would go through the city’s current vicious dog protocols.
But below a level four—or if an animal control officer observes aggressive behavior in a dog—we would, under this plan, administratively declare the dog restricted.
That would come with a microchipping requirement of the dog, the legally required rabies vaccination; the dog would be prohibited from being outside unattended unless securely penned; the dog would have to be spayed or neutered; a muzzle, leash and collar would be required whenever the dog is outside the confines of the home or a secure pen; and the owner of the dog would be required to have signage provided by the Health Department outside of the home.
This would be an annual license with a $50 fee and would last for two years.
This too is a scenario where the dog can roll off the list for good behavior after the two years is up.
Both of these protocols also have appeal options.
However, with both of these protocols—nuisance and restricted--if the owner fails to comply with the requirements, that owner can be declared a reckless owner by an independent hearing officer. That officer could order no pet ownership for that person for years.
Although there has been some discussion of replacing the city’s existing pit bull ordinance with these protocols, the Health Department is not recommending that change at this time.
Tonight’s council meeting begins at 6:30 in Council Chambers in Historic City Hall at 830 N. Boonville Ave.
For more information contact: Kathryn Wall, Public Health Information Administrator, 417-874-1205.