Owners, not dogs liable

Published 8:38 pm Saturday, February 18, 2006

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS - After 18 months of work, Cass County's revamped dog ordinance adopted Thursday by the Board of Commissioners proved not only to no longer be controversial, it even merited praise from an Edwardsburg member of the canine community.
A committee appointed last June 16 decided to avoid making the first revision since 1984 breed specific.
Animal Control Director Patrick M. Fetherston, whose department is part of the Sheriff's Office, Feb. 16 highlighted changes at the request of Dowagiac Commissioner John Cureton which expanded the previous ordinance from eight pages to 30, including eight pages of definitions, from A (animal) to Z (zoological garden).
The committee, including four commissioners, met Aug. 16, Aug. 29, Sept. 19, Oct. 17 and Nov. 3. Thirty individuals attended one of its sessions.
Terms defined, for example, include a doghouse. “There are all kinds of definitions,” Fetherston said. “But a truck cap is not adequate.”
Another change is the “extensive potentially dangerous dog section,” Fetherston noted. “It deals with holding an owner responsible for something their dog does. There are extensive penalties with that.”
Committee members also included two veterinarians, including Dr. David Butts of Dowagiac, City Manager Bill Nelson, Dowagiac Councilman Darron Murray, an assistant prosecutor, former chairman Jim Guse and Fetherston.
Commissioner David Taylor, D-Edwardsburg, noted that even dogs contained within a fence on private property must wear licenses on their collars if the dog is 4 months or older. That's state law.
With barking dogs, many call the Sheriff's Office, but those calls are referred to Animal Control.