Friday, September 24, 1999

Independence considers law regulating vicious animals

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDEPENDENCE — This Kenton County city may soon join a growing number of communities in regulating vicious animals.

        The Independence public safety committee is considering an ordinance that would require owners of vicious animals to register them with the city. Patterned after a Maysville law, the proposed ordinance also would require owners of vicious animals to carry enough insurance to cover injuries or property damage that could be caused by their animals.

        “Basically, I would describe it as (the city receives) one complaint, then you fall under our rules, and they're kind of tough,” said Lawson Walker, Independence city solicitor. “You have to register the animal with the city, make sure the animal is properly confined, and post a bond for damages.”

        In the past, communities simply banned breeds of dogs that were considered dangerous. That practice changed after some governments ran into legal roadblocks trying to define pit bulls.

        “When you say all pit bulls are banned, someone might raise the question, "What constitutes a pit bull?' said Bill Thielen, general counsel for the Kentucky League of Cities. “There are a lot of different breeds encompassed within the name "pit bull.'”

        The confusion prompted a number of cities to pass laws that regulate vicious animals in general, as opposed to a particular breed or type.

        The city of Cincinnati, which banned pit bulls in 1986, is considering lifting its ban. A proposed law before council would require vicious dogs of all breeds to be tattooed, fitted with a microchip under the skin, and registered with police.

        In Northern Kentucky, Covington officials also are considering an ordinance to regulate vicious animals. Under the proposed law, the city would consider any pet dangerous that “is not naturally tame or gentle” and is a threat to human life or property. Vicious animals could include pit bulls, amphibians, marsupials, fish and fowl.

        Besides registering their animals with police, owners of vicious animals in Covington would have to carry liability insurance to pay up to $100,000 for injuries and prop erty damage.

        Independence Police Chief Ed Porter said his city's proposed ordinance could go before the full council for initial approval as soon as Oct. 4.

        “(City officials) have discussed having vicious dogs registered with the city, and having police do routine checks on those that have them,” Chief Porter said.

        He said the checks would confirm whether or not the animals are properly confined, with well-secured gates and fences that are high enough to contain the animal.

        Chief Porter said the city's interest in regulating vicious animals was spurred in part by an unprovoked pit bull attack that occurred on his city's east side July 7.

        “As we were preparing to take a look at some (vicious animal) legislation, we had an incident where a pit bull attacked the mother of its owner,” Chief Porter said. “It left a nasty gash in her leg, and the woman had to go to the hospital.”

        When he first met with the family, Chief Porter said members told him they were getting rid of their pit bulls. Neighbors since have told police the family now has about a dozen pit bulls.


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