Watertown, Wisconsin considering pit bull ordinance

Officials in Watertown, Wisconsin are considering an ordinance that would deem pit bulls as “vicious” and place new restrictions on their owners.  According to the ordinance, a pit bull is defined as any dog that is an:

*American pit bull terrier;
*American Staffordshire terrier;
*Staffordshire bull terrier; or
*Any dog displaying a majority of one or more of the other three breeds.

The restrictions outlined in the ordinance include posting of signs on a dog owner’s property, making sure outdoor pen areas are secured and muzzling dogs at all times when they are off the owner’s property. The committee is also considering requiring pit bull and vicious dog owners to maintain a minimum amount of $500 of liability insurance.

According to committee chairman, Mark Kuehl, the committee asked the Watertown Police Department to create a report investigating dog attacks on citizens and domestic animals in recent years to help guide the committee members as they addressed the issue.

Mr. Kuehl stated that the city is trying to be considerate of all sides, but contends there is a sizable history of pit bull attacks and “other dog attacks,” and because of the history in Watertown and nationwide, pit bulls are being deemed to be vicious by nature, and will fall under the requirements if the ordinance is passed by the council.

While the ordinance will automatically deem all pit bulls vicious, other dogs “may be” deemed vicious based on whether they bite humans or other animals or, in other words, if their behavior supports the designation of dangerous.

A police officer is charged with animal control duties in the city, and the police chief says animal complaints consume a significant amount of the department’s time, and there has been an increase in vicious dog incidents in the city.  The report compiled by police indicated:

  • There were 1,831 dogs registered with the city in 2012.
  • The most popular dog in the city was the Labrador retriever with 315 reported, followed by the shih tzu with 118 and the golden retriever with 113. There were 44 pit bulls registered with the city in 2012.
  • According to the report, 78 dog bites to humans were reported between Jan. 1, 2010, and Aug. of 2012.
  • “Pit bulls” were involved in 19 percent of the bites, mix breeds or other were also involved in 18 percent, unknown breeds in 17 percent, Labrador retrievers 8 percent and cocker spaniels in 8 percent of the bites.

(As a side note, it’s important to point out the significance of the recent news report out of St. Louis, Missouri indicating that most people, animal control officers included, can’t correctly identify a “pit bull.”)

The committee will review the ordinance at their meeting on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 and, if approved, it will be forwarded to the city council. The council will have to approve the ordinance change in two consecutive meetings before the changes would go into effect.  Wednesday’s committee meeting will be in room 2044 in the Municipal Building at 106 Jones Street.  The meeting starts at 5:00 p.m.  According to city officials, citizens are encouraged to attend the meetings and to contact their alderperson’s to have their opinions heard on the ordinance changes.

Please send your polite, respectful and informative opposition to the members of the Common Council below.  Please also include viable suggestions and alternate breed-neutral ordinances for their consideration.  Encourage the Watertown officials to pass a law that focus on reckless and irresponsible dog owners which will result in a safer environment for the entire community – people and animals alike. Please note that Mr. Kuehl, the council president, doesn’t make his e-mail address available.  As such, please direct correspondence to him via the city clerk with a polite request to forward to him.

You can find talking points for your letters here.

Mayor Ron Krueger
ronk@cityofwatertown.org

Mike Hoppenrath, City Clerk
City Hall
106 Jones Street
P.O. Box 477
Watertown, WI. 53094
Phone 920-262-4000
Fax 920-262-4016
mikeh@cityofwatertown.org

Watertown Common Council
(block copy & paste e-mails)
djohnson1078@hotmail.com, wccpastor@charter.net, jpd77@att.net, alderman5dist@hotmail.com, johnjcoughlin10@yahoo.com, tony@tonyarnett.com, sarah.stocks@att.net, jwr@R545.us

Panel mulls vicious dog law changes

By David Brazy davidb@wdtimes.com | Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013 11:10 am       

Watertown officials are considering a change to the city’s laws that would deem all pit bulls vicious and place new restrictions on the dogs and their owners.

The Watertown Public Safety Committee is the middle of crafting changes to the city’s vicious dog ordinance following complaints from citizens about a relatively high number of vicious dog activities in the city, committee chairman Mark Kuehl said.

The entire Watertown Daily article can be found at this link:
http://www.wdtimes.com/news/article_ea185dfc-746d-11e2-aa2f-0019bb2963f4.html

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