Archived Story

Policies dictate handling of dangerous animals

Published 10:43pm Monday, October 24, 2011

BUCHANAN — Buchanan City commissioners took action Monday night in hopes of curbing animal attacks in the area.
The commission had been discussing the possibility of drafting a local dangerous animal ordinance after three residents were seriously injured in two pit bull attacks in September.
But the commissioners elected to keep the issue in the hands of the county, which already has an ordinance on the books.
Instead, the commission approved a series of policies to address the dangerous animal issue.

Four actions
The four policies are: to enhance the city’s police officers’ understanding of the county ordinance; have the county animal control agency provide additional animal control training to law enforcement; provide community education to animal owners; and request that the county commissioners consider changes to the county’s dangerous animal ordinance.
The commission had a work session last week to discuss the issue and City Manager Bill Marx recommended those policies based on the discussion.
Marx, who also serves as the city police chief, said officers have already had some additional training from animal control recently. The training included how to best approach and manage aggressive animals and how to streamline reports and citations to the prosecutor and court system regarding animal violations.
“It was very good training, a lot of good information,” Marx said.
Commissioner Pat Moore said the commission should contact the school board to encourage them to host training sessions from animal control for students as well.
The Buchanan commissioners also agreed to encourage the Berrien County board to consider stiffening the penalties for violations of the ordinance, although they won’t make any specific suggestions for changes.

Shades of gray
“The ordinance is very vague,” said commissioner Joe Scanlon. “There are a lot of gray areas in it. I’d like to see it tightened up a little bit. But it’s not the city of Buchanan’s place to tell the county what exact changes to make.”
Currently, violation of the ordinance is a 90-day misdemeanor with up to a $500 fine, according to Marx.

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