April 23rd a young child succumb to injuries inflicted by her babysitters dog in Prairie City Iowa. What happened was a tragedy for all involved. There were many markers that show this to have been an avoidable tragedy, as the person who was responsible for the care of both the victim and the dog involved had been charged with several crimes in the past, including felony drug charges and neglect and abandonment of a minor.
Officials are now looking at how they can strengthen their dangerous dog laws as a response to this incident.
There is quite a bit left to be desired from the current dangerous dog laws. While the responsibilities of owners are very clearly laid out, there is very little addressing dangerous, potentially dangerous or vicious dogs in the community. In fact there is only one classification, that of a dangerous animal, which is defined as
“any animal which meets any of the following conditions:
A. The animal has inflicted serious injury on any person, with or without the knowledge of the owner.
B. Any animal that attacks or bites a person or persons and such propensity is known or should reasonable be known to the owner.
C. Any animal that is infected with rabies.
D. Any animal that viciously attacks or kills a domestic animal.”
Inclusion of a potentially dangerous classification, with clear standards of behavior, would give greater control to officials in stopping situations before a tragedy. There should also be a better evaluation of the kinds of behaviors that are markers of a dangerous dog in the making. The clarity of the current definitions leaves a lot to be desired.
Another area the law clearly needs some strengthening is in the violations section of the ordinance. The violation section is two lines. “All violations of any provision of this chapter are hereby declared simple misdemeanors and municipal infractions. Violations may be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor criminal offense or a municipal infraction at the sole discretion of the Animal Control Officers.”
It is clear that Prairie City needs to address their laws to better protect the community from dangerous dogs. These changes must be clearly defined and easily enforceable, which tend to go hand in hand, to make an impact in the community. An animal control ordinance is only effective if it is enforceable.
Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim.