Archived Story

Proposed dog ordinance to be revisited again

Published 10:32pm Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Niles Township Supervisor Jim Kidwell Tuesday pushed for a first reading of a new proposed ordinance that would allow for dangerous animals to be removed from the township. But the board had too many concerns to move forward just yet and agreed to hold a workshop Monday to revisit the proposed ordinance.
The issue came up at a meeting last month when Kidwell referenced a report that a pitbull allegedly killed a neighbor’s cat and mangled another dog in a township neighborhood. The pitbull was reportedly impounded by Berrien County Animal Control, only to be released to the owner six hours later, Kidwell said.
“Every day (the victim) has to look at that dog,” he said.
Kidwell argued the new ordinance would “put some bite” into the dangerous animal law.
He first presented such an ordinance at a meeting Aug. 15 but the board had too many concerns about the language and tabled the issue. Kidwell then presented the ordinance to then-township attorney Mary Lasata Spiegel to make revisions.
He brought two possible drafts from Lasata-Spiegel before the board Tuesday.
Board member Dick Cooper said he couldn’t make an informed decision since the board had just received the ordinance that day.
Both Cooper and trustee Dick Noble questioned whether the township needs a separate ordinance since the county already has one.
“The county is doing a tremendous job,” Noble said.
Kidwell disagreed.
“It’s something the county apparently is incapable of handling right now,” Kidwell said, referencing the recent pitbull situation. “Why are we depending on the county for business in the township?”
Noble countered by saying the county is in the process of revising its own animal ordinance and is willing to listen to input from Niles Township.
Trustee Gary Conover said he is not against such an ordinance.
“I just want to make sure it improves the situation,” he said.
Board members also expressed concerns if the ordinance would even be able to be properly enforced given that the sheriff’s department is already stretched thin.
Several township residents in attendance argued in favor of the ordinance, including the owner of the animals that were attacked by the pitbull.
The board will meet with Sheriff Paul Bailey and representatives from animal control at 6 p.m. Monday to further examine the potential ordinance.
“We can take a week to look at it and make sure all the bases are covered and come up with a good game plan,” Bailey said.
Niles Township attorney resigns

The Niles Township Board accepted the resignation of Township Attorney Mary Lasata Spiegel Tuesday.
She indicated in her resignation letter that she is willing to continue her duties until a replacement is found.
The resignation comes in light of a lawsuit filed against Lasata-Spiegel, Township Treasurer Jim Ringler and Clerk Marge Durm-Hiatt for civil conspiracy. Township resident Shane Daniel alleges they violated the Open Meetings Act in order to cover up an investigation of possible misconduct by Ringler.
See the Sept. 3 story in the Daily Star for more information about the lawsuit.

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