Would place “onerous” restrictions on animals and owners
By Holly Crocco
After successfully lobbying Putnam County for a public registry of residents convicted of animal abuse, the Putnam Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has asked the Legislature to pass a Dangerous Dogs Act.
During the May 10 Rules Committee meeting, Putnam SPCA Chief Kenneth Ross explained the proposal, which would target dogs that have gone through the court system and been declared “dangerous” by a judge.
“We want to know where these ticking time bombs are,” he said.
While some municipalities have their own dangerous dog laws, most rely on state law, which allows victims, witnesses or law enforcement officers to file a complaint. If a judge finds probable cause to believe the animal is dangerous, he or she can order it seized.
A hearing must be scheduled within five days, during which the complainant must prove by “convincing evidence” that the animal is dangerous. If a judge agrees, the dog can be neutered or spayed or must always be leashed and/or muzzled in public under the control of an adult age 21 or older. Among other restrictions, its owner also must maintain at least $100,000 in liability insurance.
If a dog is proven to have attacked without being provoked, has a history of unjustified attacks or has caused serious injury or death to a companion animal within the last two years, a judge may order euthanasia or permanent confinement.
While the proposed Putnam legislation mirrors the state law, it includes a few additional provisions. For instance, any dog deemed dangerous would have to be penned in by walls or fencing at least 8 feet high.
“When you have an animal like this living next door to you, we don’t want it to be able to jump over a fence,” Ross explained. An “invisible fence,” where the animal wears a shock collar that is triggered by a buried wire, would not provide enough protection because it could malfunction. A first responder called to the home in an emergency would also be at risk, Ross said.
In addition, the dog would be required to wear a bright orange fluorescent collar and could not be penned within 500 feet of a school, hospital, nursing home, day-care center or public park. The property owner would be required to post 12-inch-square “Beware of Dog” signs facing in all directions with a photo of the animal.
Finally, the proposed law would require the owner to purchase a $500 dog license.
“We should make it onerous,” said Ross. “We don’t want the dog in this county.”
Ross could not say how many dogs in the county have been deemed dangerous by a judge. “There’s no way to get a grasp unless you go town-by-town,” he said. For that reason, the SPCA is also proposing to legislators a registry that would include the dog’s breed, age and photo, the date the dog was declared dangerous, and the owner’s name and address.
Lawmakers agreed to forward the proposal to the county Law Department for review.