Archived Story

Niles Twp. animal ordinance debate continues

Published 10:19pm Monday, August 15, 2011

Niles Township board members and area residents debated for about an hour Monday night about a proposed dangerous animal ordinance, before the board agreed to table the issue.
The issue came up at the last board meeting after a township resident’s cat was killed and dog was maimed by another pet, reportedly a pitbull in the neighborhood.
The proposed ordinance would allow for dangerous animals — or those that “attack or bite any person or animal without provocation” — to be removed from the township.
Township Supervisor Jim Kidwell strongly encouraged the board to pass the measure Monday.
“The county ordinance is very good. The only thing it doesn’t do is allow us do is remove a dangerous animal from the township,” Kidwell said. “And we have a duty to protect the citizens of the township.”
The animal would have to be deemed dangerous after a police department investigation, according to the ordinance. The current Berrien County ordinance requires a hearing before a judge to determine if an animal is dangerous. And if it is labeled dangerous, the animal must be put down.
The proposed ordinance was drafted by former township attorney Chris Lynch several months ago. But Berrien County Animal Control Director Val Grimes said based on her conversations with current township attorney Mary Spiegel, there are a number of concerns with the ordinance.
Grimes said the ordinance doesn’t clearly provide a definition for the word “bite,” which would make it difficult to determine which animals are considered a threat. She also argued that the proposed ordinance could result in the removal of innocent animals.
“This would cause a whole lot of grief to a whole lot of people who don’t deserve it,” Grimes said.
The argument got heated when township Treasurer Jim Ringler called out Kidwell for not consulting with Spiegel before bringing the ordinance before the board.
“You’re willing to just bypass legal counsel? Unbelievable,” Ringler said.
Kidwell argued that the City of Niles has a similar ordinance in place that is working well.
“If it was one of my animals destroyed, I wouldn’t want it living next door to me again,” Kidwell said.
Township board member Dick Cooper also expressed concern with the ordinance.
“If we (remove) a dangerous animal, where would it go? It could affect somebody else in another area. That bothers me,” he said.
Several residents in attendance weighed in on the issue, with an equal number for and against the ordinance.
Kidwell said he will consult with Spiegel, make some adjustments to the ordinance and bring it before the board at a future meeting. Copies of the ordinance draft are available at township hall.

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