City cracks down on vicious dogs
Amendment defines what constitutes a danger, sets rules for breeding, vaccinations
NEW HAVEN — Two years after a woman was fatally mauled by a dog in the city, a law has been put on the books to address attacks by violent dogs.
The ordinance amendment, approved by the Board of Alders Monday, defines what are dangerous and vicious dogs, and includes requirements for vaccinations and breeders’ permits .
Alder Brian Wingate, D-29, was spurred to create legislation on vicious dogs after witnessing the fatal mauling of Jocelyn Winfrey a little more than two years ago.
The city has been working
since then on legislation to address issues surrounding dangerous dogs. The Public Safety Committee in June drafted language specific to vicious or dangerous dogs to amend the city’s animal ordinance, pulling language from New Britain’s and Windsor’s existing laws. The city’s corporation counsel later worked on the ordinance to ensure its legality.
“This law is not for the responsible dog owner,” Wingate said. “It’s for the irresponsible owner.” Wingate said this is not for the people who are leashing, cleaning up after and taking care of their dogs.
“Dangerous dog means any dog that has caused a bite injury and is not a vicious dog,” the ordinance says. “Vicious dog means a dog that without provocation or justification bites or attacks a person and causes
serious physical injury or death or is declared vicious under this title.”
A “potentially dangerous” dog is one that has behaved in some way that a reasonable person would see as a serious, unjustified threat to a person or animal, according to the ordinance, or if it had injured a domestic animal before.
“Potentially dangerous” and “dangerous” dogs must be registered with Animal Control and kept contained at all times or under a muzzle and leash no longer than four feet if the dog is being taken out in public. Dangerous dogs also need to be microchipped and spayed/neutered within 10 days of being deemed dangerous.
If a dog is determined to be vicious, it’s against the law to keep it, unless an animal control officer allows the owner to do so, and the owner registers it as a vicious dog with Animal Control, according to the ordinance. An animal
control officer may order a vicious dog be euthanized, under the ordinance.
Dogs could be labeled dangerous or vicious only if they attack a person unprovoked. But the dangerous or vicious identification wouldn’t be applied if somebody is injured by a dog while trespassing, committing a crime, teasing, tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog or if the dog was “protecting or defending a human within the immediate vicinity of the dog from an unjustified attack,” according to the ordinance.
The amendment does not apply to certified service dogs.
Alder Salvatore DeCola, D-19, said the legislation was “long overdue” and was confident it benefit everybody.
The night of the mauling, two dogs viciously bit Winfrey when she walked onto her friend’s — the dog owner — property, the Register previously reported.
“This law is not for the responsible dog owner. It’s for the irresponsible owner.”
— Alder Brian Wingate, D-29
The owner and neighbors, including Wingate, tried to pull the dogs off Winfrey but couldn’t. Winfrey died a week later from the injuries. With this legislation passed, Wingate said it helps give closure to what happened.
“In a way it brings a little peace in the way that something had to be done,” he said. “No more in New Haven. We don’t want dogs mauling people in the city. For me, it’s an ending but a beginning of the new way we want to treat our dogs and our dog owners.”
The language of the amendment doesn’t specify that an animal must be on a leash to be “under control,” just that it can’t roam
in public without being under some form of control — being carried in a person’s arms, in a carrier, being under voice commands. This excludes designated dog parks.
The ordinance also covers breeding dogs, for which the city and state had no regulations . Effective July 1, 2019, anyone who wants to breed a dog in the city, even just one litter, needs a breeding permit. This helps ensure safe practices among dog breeding and potentially reduces over-breeding a single dog or interbreeding. In addition to the breeding permit, one would need a litter permit for each litter a dog fosters. All the puppies from the litter also would need to be microchipped.
The ordinance also requires vaccinating dogs for canine parvovirus, which is highly contagious for dogs. At the time of licensing, an owner would need to have proof that their
dog was vaccinated for parvovirus in addition to rabies.
Alder Adam Marchand, D-25, said the new regulations on vicious dogs, vaccinations and breeding permits, taken together, will help protect the community from threatening dogs.
“Us having new legislation around vicious dogs is going to put awareness around protection,” Wingate said. “We’re not going to stop here. We’re going to put a flyer about what’s coming next and we want to put it in the management team hands about the ordinance. We want to get the information out and we hope that by us getting the information out, it heightens the number of people trying to be better dog owners. It’s all about awareness and getting the information out. That’s how it’s going to protect us even more.”
Alder Brian Wingate, D-29, standing during a Board of Alders meeting Thursday in favor of an amendment to address how the city handles violent dogs.