City cracks down on vi­cious dogs

Amend­ment de­fines what con­sti­tutes a dan­ger, sets rules for breed­ing, vac­ci­na­tions

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Clare Dig­nan

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.”

Clare Dig­nan / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

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.

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