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City tackles new dog ordinance

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Salem City Council met Thursday, Dec. 17 to review the first draft of the city's new Dog Ordinance banning dangerous dogs within city limits. The ordinance lists the following breeds as "presumed to be dangerous animals": The staffordshire bull terrier, the American staffordshire bull terrier, the American pit bull terrier, the Rottweiler, the wolf-hybrid or tundra shepherd, the bull terrier, the chow chow, the mixed breed of dogs known as pit bulls and "any dog that has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of dogs listed."

For existing dogs within the city limits, owners will be required to confine their dogs in a locked dog run or inside; if allowed to run free within a fence they will have to be muzzled in such a way that the dog can drink but not bite; shall keep the dog leashed and muzzled at any time the dog is not confined; shall have the dog spayed or neutered; shall register the dog with the city for a $25 registration fee and a $10 renewal fee each year thereafter, and must provide the city with proof of public liability insurance in the amount of $100,000 for bodily injury or death and damage to property. The ordinance also states that tethering a dangerous dog on a rope or chain attached to a tree or any other immovable object is prohibited.

Penalties for violating the ordinance range from no less than $100 to no more than $500 for the first conviction, and no less than $100 and no more than $1,000 for each subsequent conviction and/or confined for a period of up to 6 months in the county jail. Each day an owner is in violation of the ordinance will be considered a separate offense.

Council members agreed on the majority of the ordinance with the exception of providing for police department personnel to make a discretionary determination if a dog is dangerous or not. They also looked at the part of the ordinance requiring existing dangerous dogs already within the city to be confined "in a securely enclosed and locked pen or dog run made of at least 9-gauge chain link with no more than 2" spacing. Such pen or dog run area must have sides at least 6-feet high and be secured over the top with the same material provided for the sides of the pen." The council members decided that a lighter gauge chain link could be used to secure the top of the enclosure.

The ordinance was passed on a first reading and will be presented for a second reading at the January City Council meeting.

In other news, Police Chief Al Roork reported that two purses have been stolen in the Town and Country parking lot, and advises everyone to keep a firm hand on their valuables when walking to and from their vehicles. There were also three home invasions, two attempted suicides, one suicide, several commercial thefts and two dangerous dog incidents.

Fire Chief Heath Everett reported that they made eight total runs in November, two for motor vehicle accidents, one for a car fire, one structure fire, one electrical fire and one tree on fire. They also responded to the airplane crash in Glencoe.

Everett then talked about the school's new fire system, which, when complete, will have all new LED and strobe lights. He looked forward to being trained on the new system sometime after the first of the year.

Everett also purchased a new gauge that measures gallons per minute and PSI of water pressure at various areas of the city as well as testing the fire trucks. As Public Works Chief Bill Wortham explained, "Any time new industry builds in the city, they will need to know their water pressure and flow at their hydrants." This new gauge will be used at the new jail and has already been requested by Cel-Star.

Worsham also noted that the public works department had located all valves and hydrants on the GPS system, and hopes to work with David Keck to get large maps of their locations printed up. The department has also readied the snow plows for use, repaired the bridge on Church Street where it was beginning to undermine and have stocked the pond with trout.

Mayor Gary Clayton noted that the city's audit in November went well and that FEMA still owes the city $23,000 for the ice storm and the state owes the city $12,500.

Mayor Clayton recently met with Workforce Development and has entered the city into a work program for two people to work part-time for the city. A woman will be working in city hall doing janitorial work and a man will work with the Parks Department helping out there. There is no cost to the city for participating in the program.

In financial news, the city looks to close out the year on the positive side, with better than expected sales tax revenues for the month of November and beginning of December. "We'll be closing out the year with the largest carry-over in general funds in 10-15 years," said Mayor Clayton.

The new Dollar General store is tentatively scheduled to open on Jan. 18, 2010. No word yet on what may move into the old Dollar General store behind the post office. The Mayor also noted that FNBC has listed several properties on the square and he hopes to see more businesses moving in to the downtown area. With that, the City Council adjourned.

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I was saddened to hear that Salem is considering breed specific dog laws and/or regulations. As someone who has owned Rottweilers and "pit bulls" for my entire life (never by choice - they always have found me), I can tell you that it's not the dog - it's the owners! If you ban them or make it very difficult and expensive to own them, it will only hurt people like me who are responsible and have their animals properly trained and registered with the city and local government - it won't do anything to stop the irresponsible dog owners who are already breaking the law and breeding these animals to fight or worse.

Instead of focusing your efforts on the dogs, I would urge you to look at more reasonable options that include cracking down on irresponsible dog ownership and breeding practices. There is plenty that has been written about this subject, and I hope you will all take the time to become better informed before trying to use a Band-aid to repair a severed limb. Sweeping "bans" or additional rules are often very expensive and hardly ever accomplish what they set out to do - which is ostensibly to punish those who deserve it and protect those who need it. For the ASPCA's stance on the issue, please visit http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelt....

My Rottie was the first of her breed to pass the test to become a certified Children's Hospital Dog in 1994, and my "pit bull" is already following in her footsteps. Both of these dogs have blessed the lives of so many people that it breaks my heart to think they could ever be banned!


Kirsten E. Silven-Hoell

-- Posted by ksilven on Mon, Jan 4, 2010, at 12:57 PM

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