City releases final ordinance

By BRENT MAZE,

A new ordinance regulating dogs and other animals for residents in the City of Newton will go into effect 30 days from today.

The ordinance in its entirety can be found on Page 5B of today’s Newton County Appeal. The regulations were adopted by outgoing Board of Aldermen that only included two of the current aldermen.

However, the idea of updating the ordinance has been debated for years, according to former Mayor David Carr during his last board meeting in June.

Two of the main points deal with public nuisance animals and vicious dogs.

A public nuisance animal is defined as an animal that “molests passersby or passing vehicles; attacks other animals; trespasses on school grounds, city parks or private property; repeatedly runs at large; damages private or public property; barks, whines, screams or howls in an excessive, continuous, or untimely fashion; defecates or frequently urinates on public property or cates or frequently urinates on public property or private property of one other than its owner; or is allowed by its owner to become a nuisance to people or other animals.”

Unrestrained dogs or animals constituting a public nuisance will be captured by police or animal control officers and impounded at a city animal shelter and be “confined in a humane manner” for at least five working days unless they are claimed by their owners.

To get their animals out of the city pound, owners must pay a $20 plus $5 for each day their animals are impounded.

Vicious Dogs

A vicious dog is defined as being any dog that:

• shows a tendency to “attack unprovoked.”

• Causes injury or endangers “the safety of human beings or domestic animals.”

• When unprovoked “bites, inflicts injury, assaults or otherwise attacks” a person” on any public grounds in a “menacing or terrorizing manner” or an “apparent attitude of attack.”

• Is owned or trained for dog fighting.

The ordinance states that a dog won’t be considered “vicious” that harms a person who was “committing a willful trespass or other tort” on the owner’s premises or was “teasing, tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog” or was committing a crime. Dogs that also attack other animals that were “teasing, tormenting, abusing or assaulting” the dog will not be classified vicious. That also includes dogs that were protecting or defending a human being “from an unjustified attack or assault.”

Exemptions to the vicious dog definition

• Police dogs in the line of duty.

• Dogs attempting to prevent trespassing or other criminal offense on the property of its owner or keeper.

• Dogs that attack a person who was provoking it, committing a crime or trespassing or an animal that provoked the dog.

Owner wishing to keep a vicious dog must keep it indoors or confined in a secure and “childproof locked” pen with secure sides and a secure top while keeping the animal protected from the elements. If the pen or structure has no bottom secured to the sides, the sides must be embedded in the ground no less than two feet.

If an owner takes a vicious dog beyond his or her premises, the dog must be on a leash handled by a person at least 18 years old and is no longer than four feet and “muzzled.” The only exceptions are for a dog that is show during a sanctioned American Kennel Club show or upon prior written approval of the animal control supervisor.

All owners or keepers of vicious dogs must prominently display a “Beware of Dog” sign with another sign placed its the kennel or pen. The animal control officer title may enter the premises with a police officer upon 24 hours notice to check whether the owner is compliant with the ordinance.

Fees for Vicious Dog

Owners of vicious dogs must also pay an annual $25 registration fee, keep its vaccinations up to date, show proof of a $100,000 surety bond and liability insurance of at least $100,000. Owners must also give the city 15 days notice before cancelling its insurance policy or those moving inside the city.

In addition to these rules, the new law forbids leaving unattended animals inside motor vehicle, outlaws animal cruelty, abuse and/or fighting or abandoning animals and chaining a dog to stationary objects.

Other Rules

Owners are also outlawed from keeping wild animals or reptiles inside the city limits or keeping any roadside or zoo animals. Swine are also outlawed except for those who specifically raise hogs or pigs.

Homeowners may not have more than a total of five dogs and cats in areas not zoned agricultural. Owners that have animals that had kittens or puppies will have three months to get back to a total of five. However, any owner of dogs that has a kennel with a concrete floor and cyclone fencing may have not more than eight dogs in said kennel over the age of three months.

In areas zoned agricultural, the limit increases to 10 dogs and cats over the age of three months.

Fines and jail time

Violators of the ordinance can face a fine up to $500 or 10 days in jail.

For more on the ordinance, see Page 5B of this week’s Appeal.