As you can read here, I had some significant concerns about a proposal to broaden the City's "dangerous animals" ordinance, which moved through the Council last week.
I'm pleased to say that I succeeded last Friday in taking some of the sharper edges off of the proposed ordinance. It took some concerted effort, some compromises on my part, and one hard-fought vote on the Council floor, but I got my colleagues to agree to the following:
- The new provisions that empower staff to declare pets potentially dangerous for actions that "constitute a physical threat" or "require defensive action" included a new exemption for behaviors on the pet's owner's property. So if I enter someone's fenced yard while doorknocking, and their dog runs towards me, causing me to quickly exit the yard, that dog would not be declared potentially dangerous. (Under the original proposal, it could have been.) A dog that bites someone on its owner's property could still be declared dangerous or potentially dangerous (depending on the severity of the bite). This was the closest and most controversial vote, but my side prevailed 9-4.
- The authority to declare an animal dangerous if its owner possesses dog-fighting paraphernelia - which I had successfully deleted from the proposal at committee - was re-inserted, but with some important changes. It will only come into effect if it seems like the animal has fought, or been prepared to fight.
- I moved to delete the overly broad language empowering staff to declare dangerous any animal with a "known propensity" to attack. My colleague (and ally on this issue) Lisa Goodman amended my motion to limit the "known propensity" to information that is held by Law Enforcement or Animal Care and Control staff - not unfounded rumor and supposition.
These changes, along with the earlier victory in committee (limiting the prohibition on felons owning larger dogs to violent felons only), have made this proposal much more reasonable and palatable. I'm confident that the changes I've made will help prevent innocent pets from being declared potentially dangerous, and good pet owners from having to go through the hardship of appealing such a declaration, while still doing more to protect residents from truly dangerous animals.